Histone methylations are tightly regulated by a balance between methyltransferases and demethylases that mediate the addition and removal of these modifications. Importantly, dysregulation of histone methylation is implicated in pathogenesis of cancers, including multiple myeloma (MM). For example, the t(4;14) (p16;q32) is present in 15 - 20% of MM patients and results in overexpression of WHSC1, a histone H3 lysine 36 (H3K36) methyltransferase. On the other hand, approximately 10% of MM patients without the t(4;14) have inactivating mutations in KDM6A, a H3K27 demethylase.

KDM3A is a Jumonji C-domain-containing histone demethylase which catalyzes removal of H3K9 mono- and dimethylation (H3K9me1 and H3K9me2). KDM3A is implicated in pathogenesis of different types of cancers. Here we investigated the biological impact of KDM3A in MM.

KDM3A expression was significantly elevated in MM patient samples compared to normal plasma cells in publicly available dataset (GSE5900, GSE6691). To evaluate the functional role of KDM3A, shRNAs targeting KDM3A were transduced into MM cell lines: knockdown of KDM3A significantly inhibited MM cell growth (RPMI8226, MM.1S, U266, H929) in vitro and in xenograft model (MM.1S). Apo2.7 staining showed that apoptotic cells were significantly increased after knockdown of KDM3A.

We next examined gene expression profiles after knockdown of KDM3A in RPMI8226 cells. With a cutoff of > 1.5-fold downregulation, a total of 305 probe sets were downregulated in KDM3A-knockdown cells relative to control cells. Among putative KDM3A targets, a gene of particular interest is KLF2 which plays a key role in maintenance of B cell and plasma cell phenotype, and function. Another intriguing gene is IRF4, given its known crucial role in MM cell survival. We confirmed that expression of KLF2 and IRF4 was downregulated after knockdown of KDM3A by quantitative realtime PCR and immunoblots in RPMI82226, MM.1S, and U266 cells. KDM3A binding to KLF2 and IRF4 core promoters was demonstrated by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay in RPMI8226 cells. Moreover, knockdown of KDM3A increased H3K9me1 and me2 levels at both promoter regions, indicating that KDM3A directly regulates KLF2 and IRF4 expression by removing H3K9 methylation marks at their promoters in MM cells.

shRNAs targeting KLF2 were next transduced into MM cell lines: silencing of KLF2 significantly reduced cell growth of MM cell lines, associated with decreased IRF4. Promoter reporter assays using human IRF4 promoter showed that KLF2 significantly increased luciferase expression in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, ChIP assay showed that KLF2 bound to IRF4 promoter in RPMI8226 cells. Since transcription factors could form an autoregulatory feedback loop, we hypothesized that IRF4 might regulate KLF2 expression. As expected, knockdown of IRF4 downregulated KLF2 expression at both the mRNA and protein levels in 3 MM cell lines. In addition, ChIP assays demonstrated that IRF4 bound to KLF2 second intron that contains tandem IRF4 motifs in RPMI8226 cells. Collectively, these results suggest that KLF2 activates IRF4 expression and vice versa, forming an autoregulatory loop in MM cells.

KLF2 has been reported to control homing of plasma cells to the bone marrow; we therefore hypothesized that KDM3A-KLF2-IRF4 axis might regulate adhesion and homing of MM cells to the bone marrow. Importantly, knockdown of KDM3A, KLF2, or IRF4 decreased adhesion of 3 MM cell lines to bone marrow stromal cells. Furthermore, bone marrow homing of MM.1S cells was significantly reduced after knockdown of KDM3A, KLF2, or IRF4 in a murine xenograft MM model, indicating that KDM3A-KLF2-IRF4 axis regulates, at least in part, MM cell adhesion and homing to the bone marrow.

In conclusion, our study demonstrated that KDM3A is a crucial epigenetic regulator of MM cell survival, and that inhibition of KDM3A represents a novel therapeutic strategy in MM.


Raje:Amgen: Consultancy; Takeda: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy; Celgene Corporation: Consultancy; BMS: Consultancy; Acetylon: Research Funding; Eli Lilly: Research Funding; Onyx: Consultancy; AstraZeneca: Research Funding; Millenium: Consultancy. Richardson:Gentium S.p.A.: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Millennium Takeda: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Jazz Pharmaceuticals: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Novartis: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene Corporation: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Harigae:Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.: Research Funding. Anderson:Oncopep: Equity Ownership; Gilead: Consultancy; BMS: Consultancy; Millennium: Consultancy; Celgene: Consultancy; Acetylon: Equity Ownership.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.