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YTHDF2 is a potential target of AML1/ETO-HIF1α loop-mediated cell proliferation in t(8;21) AML


The t(8;21) fusion product, AML1/ETO, and hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) form a feed-forward transcription loop that cooperatively transactivates the DNA methyltransferase 3a gene promoter that leads to DNA hypermethylation and drives leukemia cell growth. Suppression of the RNA N6-methyladenosine (m6A)-reader enzyme YTH N6-methyladenosine RNA binding protein 2 (YTHDF2) specifically compromises cancer stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) but promotes hematopoietic stem cell expansion without derailing normal hematopoiesis. However, the relevance of expression between AML1/ETO-HIF1α loop and YTHDF2, and its functional relationship with t(8;21) AML have not been documented. Here, we show that YTHDF2 is highly expressed in t(8;21) AML patients and associated with a higher risk of relapse and inferior relapse-free survival. Knockdown of YTHDF2 in leukemia cells causes an impaired cell proliferation rate in vitro and in mice. Mechanistically, HIF1α is able to bind to the hypoxia-response elements of the 5′-untranslated region of the YTHDF2 gene and promotes the transactivity of the YTHDF2 promoter. Knockdown and overexpression of either AML1/ETO or HIF1α resulted in decreased and increased YTHDF2 protein and mRNA expression in t(8;21) AML cells. In particular, knockdown of YTHDF2 resulted in increased global mRNA m6A levels in t(8;21) AML cells, accompanied by increased TNF receptor superfamily member 1b (TNFRSF1b) mRNA and protein expression levels. Last, we demonstrated that the m6A methylation and expression levels of the TNFRSF1b gene were both negatively correlated with HIF1α expression levels. In conclusion, YTHDF2 is a downstream target of the AML1/ETO-HIF1α loop and promotes cell proliferation probably by modulating the global m6A methylation in t(8;21) AML.

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Fig. 1: Selectively high expression of YTHDF2 in t(8;21) AML predicts inferior relapse-free survival.
Fig. 2: Silencing of YTHDF2 expression in t(8;21) AML cell lines led to a decreased colony-forming ability by colony-forming assay.
Fig. 3: HIF1α induces the transcriptional activity of the YTHDF2 promoter through direct promoter binding.
Fig. 4: HIF1α induces YTHDF2 high expression in t(8;21) AML cells.
Fig. 5: AML1/ETO induces YTHDF2 expression.
Fig. 6: Silencing of YTHDF2 increases m6A methylation levels and TNF-R2 expression.
Fig. 7: HIF1α regulates TNFRSF1b expression probably by influencing the m6A mRNA methylation.

Data availability

The m6A sequencing data have been deposited in Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) with the accession code GSE168778.


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This work was partially supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (82070149, 81870109, and 81670135 to X-NG), the Natural Science Foundation of Beijing Municipality (7202191 to X-NG).

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Correspondence to Dai-Hong Liu or Xiao-Ning Gao.

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Chen, Z., Shao, YL., Wang, LL. et al. YTHDF2 is a potential target of AML1/ETO-HIF1α loop-mediated cell proliferation in t(8;21) AML. Oncogene 40, 3786–3798 (2021).

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