Hox genes: from leukemia to hematopoietic stem cell expansion

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Jun;1044:109-16. doi: 10.1196/annals.1349.014.


Hox genes are clearly implicated in leukemia; however, neither the specificity of the leukemogenic potential among Hox genes of different paralog groups nor the role of the homeodomain is clear. We tested the leukemogenic potential of various NUP98-Hox fusion genes alone and with MEIS1. All genes tested had a significant overlapping effect in bone marrow cells in vitro. However, not all formed strong leukemogenic NUP98 fusion genes; but together with overexpression of MEIS1, all induced myeloid leukemia. This phenomenon was also seen with NUP98 fusions containing only the homeodomain of the corresponding Hox protein. We then exploited the strong transforming potential of NUP98-HOXD13 and NUP98-HOXA10 to establish preleukemic myeloid lines composed of early myeloid progenitors with extensive in vitro self-renewal capacity, short-term myeloid repopulating activity, and low propensity for spontaneous leukemic conversion. We also showed that MEIS1 can efficiently induce their conversion to leukemic stem cells, thus providing a novel model for the study of leukemic progression. In contrast to the leukemogenic effect of most of the Hox genes tested, HOXB4 has the ability to increase the self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells without disrupting normal differentiation. On the basis of the discovery that the leukemogenic gene HOXA9 can also expand hematopoietic stem cells, we compared the ability of NUP98-Hox fusions to that of HOXB4 to trigger HSC expansion in vitro. Our preliminary results indicate that the expanding potential of HOXB4 is retained and even augmented by fusion to NUP98. Moreover, even greater expansion may be possible using Abd-B-like Hox fusions genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / etiology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / genetics*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / metabolism


  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins