Dnmt3a regulates T-cell development and suppresses T-ALL transformation

Leukemia. 2017 Nov;31(11):2479-2490. doi: 10.1038/leu.2017.89. Epub 2017 Mar 21.


T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematopoietic neoplasm resulting from the malignant transformation of T-cell progenitors, and comprises ~15% and 25% of pediatric and adult ALL cases, respectively. It is well-established that activating NOTCH1 mutations are the major genetic lesions driving T-ALL in most patients, but efforts to develop targeted therapies against this pathway have produced limited success in decreasing leukemic burden and come with significant clinical side effects. A finer detailed understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying T-ALL is required identify patients at increased risk for treatment failure and the development of precision medicine strategies. Generation of genetic models that more accurately reflect the normal developmental history of T-ALL are necessary to identify new avenues for treatment. The DNA methyltransferase enzyme DNMT3A is also recurrently mutated in T-ALL patients, and we show here that inactivation of Dnmt3a combined with Notch1 gain-of-function leads to an aggressive T-ALL in mouse models. Moreover, conditional inactivation of Dnmt3a in mouse hematopoietic cells leads to an accumulation of immature progenitors in the thymus, which are less apoptotic. These data demonstrate that Dnmt3a is required for normal T-cell development, and acts as a T-ALL tumor suppressor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / physiology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*


  • DNMT3A protein, human
  • Dnmt3a protein, mouse
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A