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1413 Targeting Oncogenic Enhancers in ASXL1-Mutant Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 604. Molecular Pharmacology and Drug Resistance: Myeloid Neoplasms: Poster I
Saturday, December 9, 2023, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM

Terra L. Lasho, PhD1, Christy M Finke1*, Jenna A. Fernandez, PhD2*, Christopher T. Schmitz3*, Karl J. Clark, PhD3*, Claes Wahlestedt, MD PhD4*, Judy Chiao, MD4*, Abhishek A Mangaonkar, MBBS2, Mrinal M. Patnaik, MD, MBBS2 and Moritz Binder, MD5

1Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
2Division of Hematology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
3Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
4Epigenetix Inc., Delray Beach, FL
5Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

Introduction: Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is a myeloid neoplasm with limited therapeutic options and dismal outcomes. Truncating mutations in the epigenetic modifier ASXL1 are common and lead to a proliferative disease phenotype, resistance to epigenetic therapies, and higher rates of AML transformation. ASXL1-mutant CMML is characterized by widespread epigenetic remodeling and up-regulation of key leukemogenic driver genes (e.g. HOXA9 and its co-factor MEIS1). There is a genotype-specific activation of enhancers in ASXL1-mutant CMML that is associated with up-regulation of these leukemogenic driver genes. Here, we test the hypothesis that disrupting the oncogenic interactions at these genotype-specific enhancers can be exploited for therapeutic benefit.

Methods: We identified activated enhancers specific to ASXL1-mutant CMML as previously described (Binder et al. Nat Commun 2022;13(1):1434). To disrupt the E2542605 enhancer, we created unique mapped single guide RNAs (confirmed by BLAT). We generated a ribonucleoprotein complex using the Alt-R CRISPR-Cas9 system (IDT Technologies, Coralville IA). We combined the RNP along with Electroporation Enhancer to 3x10^5 cells of the monocytic cell line U937 in 20uL strip-wells provided by the SF Cell Line 4D-Nucleofector X Kit (Lonza, Basel, Switzerland). To deliver the RNP, U937 cells were electroporated via listed cell line specific protocol by the Amaxa 4D-Nucleofector (Lonza). Forty-eight hours post-electroporation, cells were split and sequenced for E2542605 genomic structure disruption. In parallel, RNA was harvested, converted to cDNA and qPCR for HOXA9 and MEIS1 expression was performed using PrimeTime qPCR FAM labeled probe assays (IDT). Gene expression was determined using delta-delta Ct method. For assessment of selective sensitivity of ASXL1 / enhancer interactions, we performed progenitor colony forming assays using primary bone marrow mononuclear cells from CMML patients with or without ASXL1 mutations and healthy normal controls (n=2 in each category), exposed to increasing concentrations of the dual p300/CBP and BET bromodomain inhibitor EP31670. Briefly, we plated cells in methocellulose fortified with recombinant human cytokines supporting hematopoietic growth in duplicate, in a range of EP31670 concentrations. After 10 days, visible hematopoietic colonies were quantified and characterized. IC50 values were generated using non-linear regression log(EP31670) vs. normalized response.

Results: We computationally identified candidate transcriptional regulators enriched at the activated enhancers specific to ASXL1-mutant CMML, including BRD4 (FDR<2.57x10-370), CBP (FDR=2.56x10-217), and p300 (FDR=6.36x10-93). We selected the ASXL1-mutant-specific enhancer E2542605 (predicted to drive HOXA9 expression), given the up-regulation of HOXA9 in ASXL1-mutant CMML (log2-fold change +2.05, FDR=0.006, n=14). We disrupted E2542605 using two different CRISPR guides, leading to a PCR trace detection of a 14bp deletion and a 26bp indel in the E2542605 enhancer region, respectively. Both enhancer disruptions led to a down-regulation of its putative target gene HOXA9: Mean relative fold-change 0.36 (p=0.001, n=3) and 0.65 (p=0.046, n=3), respectively (Fig. 1a). We then used a pharmacologic approach (EP31670) to target the candidate transcriptional regulators involved in the oncogenic interaction at these ASXL1-mutant-specific enhancers. We observed selective sensitivity to growth of CMML colonies (particularly ASXL1-mutant colonies) compared to ASXL1-wild type cases and normal bone marrow controls (Fig. 1b).

Conclusions: In CMML patients, truncating ASXL1 mutations are associated with the activation of genotype-specific enhancers and the recruitment of an extended repertoire of transcriptional regulators including BRD4, CBP, and p300. In a model system, the disruption of an enhancer predicted to govern the expression of the leukemogenic driver HOXA9, led to a significant down-regulation of HOXA9 expression. Pharmacologically disrupting the oncogenic interaction at such enhancers with EP31670 in primary patient samples led to significant therapeutic effects at nanomolar drug concentrations in a genotype-specific manner. Oncogenic interactions at activated enhancers are viable therapeutic targets in ASXL1-mutant CMML and warrant further clinical investigation.

Disclosures: Wahlestedt: Epigenetix Inc.: Current Employment. Chiao: Epigenetix Inc.: Current Employment. Patnaik: CTI Pharmaceuticals: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Kura Oncology: Research Funding; Epigenetix: Research Funding; StemLine: Research Funding.

*signifies non-member of ASH