BRD4 associates with p53 in DNMT3A-mutated leukemia cells and is implicated in apoptosis by the bromodomain inhibitor JQ1

Helen Jayne Susan Stewart, Gillian Abigail Horne, Sarah Bastow, Timothy James Telfer Chevassut
Cancer Medicine 2013, 2 (6): 826-35
The bromodomain and extra terminal (BET) family protein bromodomain containing protein 4 (BRD4) is an epigenetic regulator recently identified as a therapeutic target for several hematological cancers, notably mixed lineage leukemia-fusion acute myeloid leukemia (MLL-AML). Here, we show that the BRD4 bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 is highly active against the p53-wild-type Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI)-AML3 cell line which carries mutations in nucleophosmin (NPM1) and DNA methyltransferase 3 (DNMT3A) genes commonly associated with poor prognostic disease. We find that JQ1 causes caspase 3/7-mediated apoptosis and DNA damage response in these cells. In combination studies, we show that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, the HDM2 inhibitor Nutlin-3, and the anthracycline daunorubicin all enhance the apoptotic response of JQ1. These compounds all induce activation of p53 suggesting that JQ1 might sensitize AML cells to p53-mediated cell death. In further experiments, we show that BRD4 associates with acetylated p53 but that this association is not inhibited by JQ1 indicating that the protein-protein interaction does not involve bromodomain binding of acetylated lysines. Instead, we propose that JQ1 acts to prevent BRD4-mediated recruitment of p53 to chromatin targets following its activation in OCI-AML3 cells resulting in cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in a c-MYC-independent manner. Our data suggest that BET bromodomain inhibition might enhance current chemotherapy strategies in AML, notably in poor-risk DNMT3A/NPM1-mutated disease.

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