Genetic alterations in the RUNX1 gene are associated with benign and malignant blood disorders, particularly of megakaryocyte and myeloid lineages. The role of RUNX1 in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is less clear, particularly in terms of how germline genetic variation influences the predisposition to this type of leukemia. Sequencing DNA of 4836 children with B cell ALL (B-ALL) and 1354 with T cell ALL (T-ALL), we identified 31 and 18 germline RUNX1 variants, respectively. RUNX1 variants in B-ALL consistently showed minimal damaging effects. In contrast, 6 T-ALL–related variants resulted in drastic loss of RUNX1 activity as a transcription activator in vitro. Ectopic expression of dominant-negative RUNX1 variants in human CD34+ cells repressed differentiation into erythroid cells, megakaryocytes, and T cells, while promoting myeloid cell development. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing of T-ALL models showed distinctive patterns of RUNX1 binding by variant proteins. Further whole-genome sequencing identified the JAK3 mutation as the most frequent somatic genomic abnormality in T-ALL with germline RUNX1 variants. Cointroduction of RUNX1 variant and JAK3 mutation in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in mice gave rise to T-ALL with the early T cell precursor phenotype. Taken together, these results indicate that RUNX1 is an important predisposition gene for T-ALL and point to biology of RUNX1-mediated leukemogenesis in the lymphoid lineages.


Yizhen Li, Wentao Yang, Meenakshi Devidas, Stuart S. Winter, Chimene Kesserwan, Wenjian Yang, Kimberly P. Dunsmore, Colton Smith, Maoxiang Qian, Xujie Zhao, Ranran Zhang, Julie M. Gastier-Foster, Elizabeth A. Raetz, William L. Carroll, Chunliang Li, Paul P. Liu, Karen R. Rabin, Takaomi Sanda, Charles G. Mullighan, Kim E. Nichols, William E. Evans, Ching-Hon Pui, Stephen P. Hunger, David T. Teachey, Mary V. Relling, Mignon L. Loh, Jun J. Yang


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