The histone demethylase PHF8 promotes adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia through interaction with the MEK/ERK signaling pathway

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018 Feb 12;496(3):981-987. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.01.049. Epub 2018 Jan 9.


Adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a malignant disorder of lymphoid progenitor cells that is associated with a high risk of relapse and poor prognosis. Thus, novel pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic targets need to be explored. Histone methylation is one of the most significant chromatin post-translational modifications. Here, we show that the histone demethylase PHF8 is highly expressed in a large number of ALL clinical specimens and that PHF8 expression is associated with ALL progression. PHF8 knockdown inhibits proliferation and promotes the apoptosis of ALL cells in vitro as well as attenuates tumor growth in vivo. PHF8 transcriptionally upregulates MEK1, a key molecule in the MEK/ERK pathway, at least partially by directly binding to its promoter, thereby activating the MEK/ERK pathway. In addition, we found that an inhibitor of the MEK/ERK pathway, PD184352, subsequently suppresses PHF8 expression. Thus, PHF8 forms a positive feedback loop with the MEK/ERK pathway, and PHF8 knockdown enhances the lethality of PD184352 in ALL cells. In conclusion, this study identifies oncogenic functions of PHF8 in adult ALL and suggests a novel epigenetic strategy for disease intervention.

Keywords: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; MEK/ERK pathway; MEK1; PD184352; PHF8.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism*
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Histone Demethylases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Male
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Transcription Factors
  • Histone Demethylases
  • PHF8 protein, human