Systemic mastocytosis (SM) is a myeloproliferative disease for which there is currently no specific therapy. Over 90% of the patients carry the D816V point mutation that renders the KIT receptor constitutively active. In the current study, we assessed the sensitivity of mast cell line HMC1.2 and primary SM patient mast cells to histone deacetylase inhibitors, and found that SAHA is most efficient. SAHA induced a rapid downregulation of KIT mRNA, with a subsequent reduction in total KIT protein as well as cell surface KIT. This was followed by major mast cell apoptosis. Primary SM patient mast cells cultured ex vivo were even more sensitive to SAHA than HMC1.2 cells, whereas healthy subject mast cells were unaffected. There was a correlation between cell death and SM disease severity, where cell death was more pronounced in the case of aggressive disease, with almost 100% cell death among mast cells from the mast cell leukemia patient. Using ChIP qPCR, we found that the level of active chromatin mark H3K18ac/totalH3 decreased significantly in the KIT region, due to an increase in H3 density. This epigenetic silencing was specific to the KIT region and not seen in control genes upstream and downstream of KIT. Primary analysis of ChIP-seq data for histone marks H3K4me3 and H3K27me3, demonstrates a downregulation of transcription factors involved in activation of KIT receptor, such as MAPK, for the SAHA treated samples. This indicates an indirect epigenetic silencing of KIT. Our results therefore demonstrate that SAHA epigenetically silences KIT, and work is ongoing to elucidate the exact mechanisms of KIT regulation. Altogether, SAHA maybe a specific treatment for SM.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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