Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) subtypes that result from oncogenic activation of homeobox (HOX) transcription factors are associated with poor prognosis. The HOXA9 transcription activator and growth factor independent 1 (GFI1) transcriptional repressor compete for occupancy at DNA-binding sites for the regulation of common target genes. We exploited this HOXA9 versus GFI1 antagonism to identify the genes encoding microRNA-21 and microRNA-196b as transcriptional targets of HOX-based leukemia oncoproteins. Therapeutic inhibition of microRNA-21 and microRNA-196b inhibited in vitro leukemic colony forming activity and depleted in vivo leukemia-initiating cell activity of HOX-based leukemias, which led to leukemia-free survival in a murine AML model and delayed disease onset in xenograft models. These data establish microRNA as functional effectors of endogenous HOXA9 and HOX-based leukemia oncoproteins, provide a concise in vivo platform to test RNA therapeutics, and suggest therapeutic value for microRNA antagonists in AML.


Chinavenmeni S. Velu, Aditya Chaubey, James D. Phelan, Shane R. Horman, Mark Wunderlich, Monica L. Guzman, Anil G. Jegga, Nancy J. Zeleznik-Le, Jianjun Chen, James C. Mulloy, Jose A. Cancelas, Craig T. Jordan, Bruce J. Aronow, Guido Marcucci, Balkrishen Bhat, Brian Gebelein, H. Leighton Grimes


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