Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the result of aberrant hematopoietic processes, such as enhanced proliferation, blocked differentiation, and dysregulated apoptosis of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, and frequently these changes are initiated by chromosomal translocations in leukemia. Efficient methods for modelling leukemia and to recreate leukemia-associated genetic aberrations, such as chromosome translocations, are therefore crucial for investigating how leukemia is initiated. Today, most such models are murine and usually based on introduction of fusion gene transcripts of interest under the control of a constitutive active promoter using lenti- or retroviral transduction rather than the chromosomal translocation itself. The aim of the current project was to create a human cellular model of a chromosomal translocation that is typically found in AML in children under 24 months of age, the translocation t(7;12)(q36;p13). This translocation has been associated with poor prognosis, and leads to a gene fusion MNX1-ETV6 but also aberrant MNX1 gene expression. Its mechanism for leukemia initiation is so far unknown, mainly due to lack of a suitable experimental model.
Material and methods
CRISPR/Cas9 was used to reconstruct the genetics of the t(7;12)(q36;p13) rearrangement in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) while maintaining the genomic architecture and regulatory elements. Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex was delivered by lipofection (Nucleofection, Amaxa 4D system) into undifferentiated iPSC (ChiPSC 22, Cellartis). An ATTO550 tag on tracrRNA/RNP complex was used to sort out positive cells by flow cytometry and then seeded as single-cells in 96-well plates. Genomic DNA from the single-cell derived iPSC clones were screened by PCR for the presence of the translocation and positive clones were verified with a FISH probe specific for t(7;12)(q36;p13) (Double Fusion Break Apart probe, Metasystem). RT-qPCR was used to detect and quantify the expression of MNX1-ETV6 fusion and MNX1 transcripts. Differentiation potential was tested with the Trilineage Differentiation and Hematopoietic Kits (STEMdiff, STEMCELL Technologies).
Using CRISPR/Cas9, we could successfully generate iPSC with the t(7;12)(q36;p13) translocation. The translocation was confirmed using conventional karyotyping and FISH and the mRNA expression of the fusion was confirmed with RT-qPCR. No additional chromosomal aberrations were seen. The t(7;12)(q36;p13) iPSC showed similar growth and differentiation properties as the parental iPSC. They showed propensity to differentiate into all three germ layers, confirming their pluripotent stem cell properties. The potential for differentiation into hematopoietic progenitor cells was shown by expression of CD34+, CD43+ and CD45+. In AML with t(7;12)(q36;p13), MNX1 mRNA expression is increased and this may play a role for leukemia development. In the t(7;12)(q36;p13) iPSC, RT-qPCR indeed showed increased expression of MNX1 expression compared with iPSC without the translocation. This increase of MNX1 was not seen in murine adult bone marrow or fetal liver cells transduced with retrovirus expressing the MNX1-ETV6 fusion. Further characterization of the t(7;12)(q36;p13) iPSC, e.g. whole exome and transcriptome sequencing and engraftment potential in immunocompromised mice (NSG-SGM), is ongoing.
In summary, we have using CRISPR/Cas9 successfully created a t(7;12)(q36;p13) iPSC line with potential to differentiate into hematopoietic progenitor cells and with gene expression pattern similar to what is seen in human AML samples with the t(7;12)(q36;p13). The introduction of the MNX1-ETV6 fusion in its correct genomic context could recapitulate local gene regulation, making it superior to models based on lenti- or retroviral introduction of fusion genes transcripts. In conclusion, this created cell line will be a valuable tool to study the mechanisms behind t(7;12)(q36;p13) AML, a severe form of AML associated with poor prognosis.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.