TAL1 (also known as SCL) is expressed in >40% of human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALLs). TAL1 encodes a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that can interfere with the transcriptional activity of E2A and HEB during T cell leukemogenesis; however, the oncogenic pathways directly activated by TAL1 are not characterized. In this study, we show that, in human TAL1–expressing T-ALL cell lines, TAL1 directly activates NKX3.1, a tumor suppressor gene required for prostate stem cell maintenance. In human T-ALL cell lines, NKX3.1 gene activation is mediated by a TAL1–LMO–Ldb1 complex that is recruited by GATA-3 bound to an NKX3.1 gene promoter regulatory sequence. TAL1-induced NKX3.1 activation is associated with suppression of HP1-α (heterochromatin protein 1 α) binding and opening of chromatin on the NKX3.1 gene promoter. NKX3.1 is necessary for T-ALL proliferation, can partially restore proliferation in TAL1 knockdown cells, and directly regulates miR-17-92. In primary human TAL1-expressing leukemic cells, the NKX3.1 gene is expressed independently of the Notch pathway, and its inactivation impairs proliferation. Finally, TAL1 or NKX3.1 knockdown abrogates the ability of human T-ALL cells to efficiently induce leukemia development in mice. These results suggest that tumor suppressor or oncogenic activity of NKX3.1 depends on tissue expression.
S. Kusy, B. Gerby, N. Goardon
The Journal of Experimental Medicine