The dual epigenetic role of PRMT5 in acute myeloid leukemia: gene activation and repression via histone arginine methylation

Leukemia. 2016 Apr;30(4):789-99. doi: 10.1038/leu.2015.308. Epub 2015 Nov 5.


Changes in the enzymatic activity of protein arginine methyltransferase (PRMT) 5 have been associated with cancer; however, the protein's role in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has not been fully evaluated. Here, we show that increased PRMT5 activity enhanced AML growth in vitro and in vivo while PRMT5 downregulation reduced it. In AML cells, PRMT5 interacted with Sp1 in a transcription repressor complex and silenced miR-29b preferentially via dimethylation of histone 4 arginine residue H4R3. As Sp1 is also a bona fide target of miR-29b, the miR silencing resulted in increased Sp1. This event in turn led to transcription activation of FLT3, a gene that encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase. Inhibition of PRMT5 via sh/siRNA or a first-in-class small-molecule inhibitor (HLCL-61) resulted in significantly increased expression of miR-29b and consequent suppression of Sp1 and FLT3 in AML cells. As a result, significant antileukemic activity was achieved. Collectively, our data support a novel leukemogenic mechanism in AML where PRMT5 mediates both silencing and transcription of genes that participate in a 'yin-yang' functional network supporting leukemia growth. As FLT3 is often mutated in AML and pharmacologic inhibition of PRMT5 appears feasible, the PRMT5-miR-29b-FLT3 network should be further explored as a novel therapeutic target for AML.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Arginine / chemistry*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Epigenomics*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Arginine
  • PRMT3 protein, human
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases