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582 Purine Metabolism Modulates Leukemia Stem Cell Maintenance in MLL-Rearranged Acute Leukemia

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Type: Oral
Session: 602. Myeloid Oncogenesis: Basic: Chemical and Genetic Approaches for Targeting Leukemic Stem Cells
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Fundamental Science, Acute Myeloid Malignancies, AML, Diseases, Myeloid Malignancies
Sunday, December 10, 2023: 5:45 PM

Xiangguo Shi, PhD1, Minhua Li1*, Lin Tan2*, Zian Liu3*, Yudan Zhu4*, Tiessen Jonathan1*, Jing Zhou1*, Mengdie Feng1*, Yuki Kageyama, MD, PhD1*, Hassan Samee1*, Kristen Andreozzi1*, Philip Lorenzi2*, Koichi Takahashi, MD, PhD5, Michalis Agathocleous, PhD6 and Daisuke Nakada, PhD1

1Department of Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
2Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
3Department of Integrative Physiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
4Department of Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
5Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
6Children’s Medical Center Research Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Houston, TX

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) represents the most prevalent hematopoietic malignancy driven by leukemia stem cells (LSCs) and remains challenging to treat in adult patients. MLL rearrangement results in a genetically unique subtype of AML characterized by chromosomal translocations involving the MLL gene and over 80 fusion partners, including AF9 as one of the most common partners. The oncogenic MLL fusion proteins interact with multiple transcription and chromatin regulators, such as Menin, to induce leukemogenic stem cell gene programs and transform hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Although significant progress has been made in understanding the metabolic dysregulation in acute leukemia, such as alterations in glycolysis, energetic metabolism, amino acid metabolism, and fatty acid metabolism, the metabolic factors that modulate MLL fusion oncogenic transcriptional activity in AML remain incompletely elucidated.

To identify novel metabolic vulnerabilities in MLL-rearranged AML, we performed a whole genome CRISPR dropout screen and profiled the metabolites of murine LSCs of MLL-AF9 murine model. This analysis revealed the purine biosynthesis pathway is essential for MLL-rearranged leukemia and that MLL-rearranged LSCs are enriched in metabolites of the purine biosynthesis pathway. Isotypoe incorporation experiments using [U-13C]glucose demonstrated a high purine biosynthetic rate in the LSCs compared to bulk leukemia cells. Accordingly, human acute myeloid leukemia stem cells express high levels of the purine biosynthetic genes. Furthermore, we found that MYC, a well-known downstream target of MLL-AF9, mediates the enhanced purine synthesis in LSCs. These results demonstrate enhanced purine biosynthetic pathways in LSCs.

We utilized genetic and pharmacological (mycophenolate mofetil, MMF, a purine biosynthesis inhibitor of IMPDH) approaches to target the enhanced purine metabolism and found inhibition of the purine synthesis pathway promotes myeloid differentiation of both murine and human LSCs. Metabolomics analysis reveals a remarkable reduction of purine metabolites. Supplementing the LSCs with guanosine, an intermediate metabolite of the purine biosynthesis pathway, substantially rescued the differentiation. Importantly, treatment of MLL-AF9-driven murine leukemia mice with MMF impaired LSCs function, prolonged leukemia survival, and reduced leukemia burden in the peripheral blood and bone marrow, while causing minimal effects on normal hematopoiesis. These results demonstrate the reliance on enhanced purine metabolism in LSCs maintenance.

Previous work has shown that the purine biosynthesis pathway is essential for rRNA transcription in the nucleolus, which could be inhibited by CX-5461. To verify the essentiality of the rRNA transcription in MLL-rearranged LSCs, we treated MLL-AF9-induced murine LSCs cells with CX-5461 and found CX-5461 promotes myeloid differentiation of LSCs. Moreover, we found that the myeloid differentiation induced by MMF or CX-5461 is associated with reduced chromatin occupancy of the MLL-AF9 complex, especially Menin, and downregulated expression of MLL-AF9 target genes, such as Meis1, Hoxa9, and Myc, suggesting a regulatory role of nucleolar rRNA transcription on MLL-AF9 oncogenic gene expression program. We are currently focusing on the synergistic effects of targeting purine metabolism and Menin inhibition on AML suppression. Altogether, our findings reveal that purine metabolism maintains nucleolar rRNA transcription homeostasis to modulate MLL fusion complex-induced leukemogenic transcriptional activity in LSCs. The enhanced purine metabolism emerges as a crucial dependency for LSCs, providing potential targets for novel therapeutic strategies in treating MLL-rearranged leukemia.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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