GFI1 as a novel prognostic and therapeutic factor for AML/MDS

Leukemia. 2016 Jun;30(6):1237-45. doi: 10.1038/leu.2016.11. Epub 2016 Feb 5.


Genetic and epigenetic aberrations contribute to the initiation and progression of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). GFI1, a zinc-finger transcriptional repressor, exerts its function by recruiting histone deacetylases to target genes. We present data that low expression of GFI1 is associated with an inferior prognosis of AML patients. To elucidate the mechanism behind this, we generated a humanized mouse strain with reduced GFI1 expression (GFI1-KD). Here we show that AML development induced by onco-fusion proteins such as MLL-AF9 or NUP98-HOXD13 is accelerated in mice with low human GFI1 expression. Leukemic cells from animals that express low levels of GFI1 show increased H3K9 acetylation compared to leukemic cells from mice with normal human GFI1 expression, resulting in the upregulation of genes involved in leukemogenesis. We investigated a new epigenetic therapy approach for this subgroup of AML patients. We could show that AML blasts from GFI1-KD mice and from AML patients with low GFI1 levels were more sensitive to treatment with histone acetyltransferase inhibitors than cells with normal GFI1 expression levels. We suggest therefore that GFI1 has a dose-dependent role in AML progression and development. GFI1 levels are involved in epigenetic regulation, which could open new therapeutic approaches for AML patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / genetics
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Prognosis
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Transcription Factors / deficiency


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • GFI1 protein, human
  • Histones
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Transcription Factors
  • Histone Acetyltransferases