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An Activating Mutation of the NSD2 Histone Methyltransferase Drives Oncogenic Reprogramming in Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

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NSD2, a histone methyltransferase specific for methylation of histone 3 lysine 36 (H3K36), exhibits a glutamic acid to lysine mutation at residue 1099 (E1099K) in childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Cells harboring this mutation can become the predominant clone in relapsing disease. We studied the effects of this mutant enzyme in silico, in vitro, and in vivo using gene edited cell lines. The E1099K mutation altered enzyme/substrate binding and enhanced the rate of H3K36 methylation. As a result, cell lines harboring E1099K exhibit increased H3K36 dimethylation and reduced H3K27 trimethylation, particularly on nucleosomes containing histone H3.1. Mutant NSD2 cells exhibit reduced apoptosis and enhanced proliferation, clonogenicity, adhesion, and migration. In mouse xenografts, mutant NSD2 cells are more lethal and brain invasive than wildtype cells. Transcriptional profiling demonstrates that mutant NSD2 aberrantly activates factors commonly associated with neural and stromal lineages, in addition to signaling and adhesion genes. AKT signaling is also activated in NSD2 E1099K cells, and inhibiting this pathway mitigates the proliferative advantage provided by the mutation, suggesting a direction for therapeutic intervention.

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