EZH2, a component of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), catalyzes the trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27) to repress the transcription of target genes. Inactivating mutations of EZH2 have been found in myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) including myelofibrosis (MF). EZH2 mutations are associated with poor prognosis in patients with MF. However, the contribution of EZH2 mutations in the pathogenesis of MF remains unknown.

The JAK2V617F mutation has been found in a majority of cases of MPNs including ~50% patients with MF. However, it is not clear whether JAK2V617F mutation alone is sufficient to cause MF. Interestingly, inactivating EZH2 mutations co-exist with JAK2V617F mutation in significant cases of MF. To understand the role of JAK2V617F in MPNs, we previously generated a conditional Jak2V617F knock-in mouse, which exhibits all the features of human PV. To determine if EZH2 mutations cooperate with JAK2V617F mutation in MF, we crossed the conditional EZH2 knock-out mice with conditional Jak2V617F knock-in mice and assessed the effects of concomitant deletion of EZH2 and expression of heterozygous Jak2V617F in mice hematopoietic compartments.

Whereas Jak2V617F expression resulted in significant increase in red blood cells (RBC), hemoglobin, hematocrit, white blood cells and platelets in the peripheral blood of the Jak2V617F knock-in mice, deletion of EZH2 significantly reduced the RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit parameters in Jak2V617F knock-in mice. Interestingly, platelet counts were further increased in EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F-expressing mice. Flow cytometric analysis showed significant increase in CD71+Ter119neg/lo early erythroid precursors and decrease in CD71+Ter119high late erythroid precursors in the bone marrow (BM) and spleens of EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F mice suggesting a defect in erythroid differentiation upon EZH2 deletion in Jak2V617F mice. Notably, megakaryocytic precursors (CD41+CD61+) were significantly increased in the BM and spleens of EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F mice consistent with increased number of platelets in the peripheral blood of these mice. Similar to human PV, Jak2V617F expression resulted in cytokine-independent CFU-E colonies in the BM and spleens of Jak2V617F knock-in mice. However, deletion of EZH2 markedly inhibited cytokine-independent CFU-E colonies in the BM and spleens of Jak2V617F knock-in mice. Histopathologic analysis revealed extensive fibrosis in the BM and spleens of EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F mice at 24 weeks after induction while heterozygous Jak2V617F knock-in mice BM and spleens showed very mild fibrosis at this age. Control and EZH2-deficient mice did not exhibit any fibrosis in their BM or spleens.

In order to determine whether the effects of EZH2 deletion in Jak2V617F mice were cell autonomous, BM cells from pIpC induced control, EZH2-deficient, Jak2V617F knock-in and EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F-expressing mice were transplanted into lethally irradiated syngeneic recipient mice. Transplanted animals receiving EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F BM developed severe fibrosis in their BM and spleens within 8 weeks after transplantation. Furthermore, recipients of EZH2-deleted Jak2V617F BM exhibited severe anemia and became moribund by 8 weeks after transplantation. In contrast, transplanted animals receiving control, EZH2-deficient or Jak2V617F BM did not exhibit fibrosis at 8 weeks after transplantation. Thus, the phenotypes observed in EZH2-deficient Jak2V617F mice are hematopoietic cell-autonomous. Together, these data suggest that loss of EZH2 inhibits erythropoiesis, promotes megakaryopoiesis and accelerates the development of MF in mice expressing Jak2V617F.

To gain insights into the mechanisms by which EZH2 deficiency accelerates the development of MF in Jak2V617F mice, we performed microarray gene expression analysis on purified long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSC; Lin-c-kit+Sca-1+CD34-Flk2-). Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that interferon response-related genes and the genes related to TNF signaling pathway were up-regulated in LT-HSC of EZH2-deficient Jak2V617F mice compared with Jak2V617F LT-HSC. Further studies will validate the targets of EZH2 that are de-repressed upon EZH2 deletion in MF induced by Jak2V617F. In conclusion, our studies show that loss of EZH2 cooperates with Jak2V617F mutation in the development of MF.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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