Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) constitutes a hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) disorder characterized by prominent monocytosis and myelodysplasia. Although genome sequencing has revealed the CMML mutation profile, the mechanism of disease development remains unclear. Here we show that aberrant histone acetylation by nucleoporin-98 (NUP98)-HBO1, a newly identified fusion in a patient with CMML, is sufficient to generate clinically relevant CMML pathogenesis. Overexpression of NUP98-HBO1 in murine HSC/progenitors (HSC/Ps) induced diverse CMML phenotypes, such as severe leukocytosis, increased CD115+ Ly6Chigh monocytes (an equivalent subpopulation to human classical CD14+ CD16- monocytes), macrocytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, megakaryocyte-lineage dysplasia, splenomegaly, and cachexia. A NUP98-HBO1-mediated transcriptional signature in human CD34+ cells was specifically activated in HSC/Ps from a CMML patient cohort. Besides critical determinants of monocytic cell fate choice in HSC/Ps, an oncogenic HOXA9 signature was significantly activated by NUP98-HBO1 fusion through aberrant histone acetylation. Increased HOXA9 gene expression level with disease progression was confirmed in our CMML cohort. Genetic disruption of NUP98-HBO1 histone acetyltransferase activity abrogated its leukemogenic potential and disease development in human cells and a mouse model. Furthermore, treatment of azacytidine was effective in our CMML mice. The recapitulation of CMML clinical phenotypes and gene expression profile by the HBO1 fusion suggests our new model as a useful platform for elucidating the central downstream mediators underlying diverse CMML-related mutations and testing multiple compounds, providing novel therapeutic potential.
© 2019 by The American Society of Hematology.