MicroRNAs (miRNAs), are small non-coding RNA molecules known to be important regulators of cancer biology. Notably, we and others have shown that miRNAs play important roles in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a heterogeneous malignancies with multiple chromosomal and molecular abnormalities. Patients with chromosomal rearrangements involving mixed lineage leukemia (MLL), the mammalian homology of trithorax gene, are associated with poor survival. Previously, we have found that MLL-rearranged AML drives aberrant expression of several miRNAs, most notably microRNA-9 (miR-9). Expression of miR-9 with MLL-AF9, a common MLL-translocation, was sufficient to promote transformation normal hematopoietic progenitor cells in vitro and leukemogenesis in vivo. We previously found that miR-9 reduces expression of several genes but we did not know which genes were critical tumor suppressors. We found that the polycomb group member RING1- and YY1-Bindin Protein (RYBP) was consistently inhibited upon miR-9 expression. To assess the regulation of RYBP we used publically available data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and looked at genome-wide Illumina 450K methylation data. We did not find a strong correlation with methylation and RYBP expression, suggesting that expression of RYBP is likely not regulated by the DNA methylation machinery in patients. Upon looking at copy number alterations we found that a small population of AML patients contained either homozygous or heterozygous loss of RYBP, suggesting a potential role of RYBP in leukemia pathogenesis. To assess the role of RYBP we did a series of in vitro experiments. We found that expression of RYBP was sufficient to attenuate colony-forming growth driven by MLL- AF9. Furthermore, RYBP expression was able to reduce proliferation, increase apoptosis, and significantly reduce immature cell population. To determine the role of RYBP expression in vivo, we transplanted lethally irradiated mice with progenitors retrovirally transduced with MLL-AF9 compared to MLL-AF9 and RYBP. We found that expression of RYBP was sufficient to reduce leukemia burden in vivo as well as induce differentiation as shown by flow cytometry and histological analysis. Thus, this demonstrates that RYBP is a functional tumor suppressor in MLL-rearranged AML. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that chromosomal rearrangements involving MLL, the mammalian homology of trithorax, downregulates a member of the polycomb complex through upregulation of miR-9.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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