Correlative and functional studies support the involvement of the RUNX gene family in haematological malignancies. To elucidate the role of epigenetics in RUNX inactivation, we evaluated promoter DNA methylation of RUNX1, 2, and 3 in 23 leukaemia cell lines and samples from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) and myelodysplatic syndromes (MDS) patients. RUNX1 and RUNX2 gene promoters were mostly unmethylated in cell lines and clinical samples. Hypermethylation of RUNX3 was frequent among cell lines (74%) and highly variable among patient samples, with clear association to cytogenetic status. High frequency of RUNX3 hypermethylation (85% of the 20 studied cases) was found in AML patients with inv(16)(p13.1q22) compared to other AML subtypes (31% of the other 49 cases). RUNX3 hypermethylation was also frequent in ALL (100% of the six cases) but low in MDS (21%). In support of a functional role, hypermethylation of RUNX3 was correlated with low levels of protein, and treatment of cell lines with the DNA demethylating agent, decitabine, resulted in mRNA re-expression. Furthermore, relapse-free survival of non-inv(16)(p13.1q22) AML patients without RUNX3 methylation was significantly better (P = 0·016) than that of methylated cases. These results suggest that RUNX3 silencing is an important event in inv(16)(p13.1q22) leukaemias.
Keywords: DNA methylation; RUNX3; acute myeloid leukaemia; gene expression; inv(16)(p13.1q22).
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.