Molecular basis of the mixed lineage leukemia-menin interaction: implications for targeting mixed lineage leukemias

J Biol Chem. 2010 Dec 24;285(52):40690-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.172783. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Chromosomal translocations targeting the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene result in MLL fusion proteins that are found in aggressive human acute leukemias. Disruption of MLL by such translocations leads to overexpression of Hox genes, resulting in a blockage of hematopoietic differentiation that ultimately leads to leukemia. Menin, which directly binds MLL, has been identified as an essential oncogenic co-factor required for the leukemogenic activity of MLL fusion proteins. Here, we characterize the molecular basis of the MLL-menin interaction. Using (13)C-detected NMR experiments, we have mapped the residues within the intrinsically unstructured fragment of MLL that are required for binding to menin. Interestingly, we found that MLL interacts with menin with a nanomolar affinity (K(d) ∼ 10 nM) through two motifs, MBM1 and MBM2 (menin binding motifs 1 and 2). These motifs are located within the N-terminal 43-amino acid fragment of MLL, and the MBM1 represents a high affinity binding motif. Using alanine scanning mutagenesis of MBM1, we found that the hydrophobic residues Phe(9), Pro(10), and Pro(13) are most critical for binding. Furthermore, based on exchange-transferred nuclear Overhauser effect measurements, we established that MBM1 binds to menin in an extended conformation. In a series of competition experiments we showed that a peptide corresponding to MBM1 efficiently dissociates the menin-MLL complex. Altogether, our work establishes the molecular basis of the menin interaction with MLL and MLL fusion proteins and provides the necessary foundation for development of small molecule inhibitors targeting this interaction in leukemias with MLL translocations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein / chemistry*
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein / genetics
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein / metabolism
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / chemistry
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • KMT2A protein, human
  • MEN1 protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase