MicroRNA-708 is a novel regulator of the Hoxa9 program in myeloid cells

Leukemia. 2020 May;34(5):1253-1265. doi: 10.1038/s41375-019-0651-1. Epub 2019 Nov 25.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are commonly deregulated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), affecting critical genes not only through direct targeting, but also through modulation of downstream effectors. Homeobox (Hox) genes balance self-renewal, proliferation, cell death, and differentiation in many tissues and aberrant Hox gene expression can create a predisposition to leukemogenesis in hematopoietic cells. However, possible linkages between the regulatory pathways of Hox genes and miRNAs are not yet fully resolved. We identified miR-708 to be upregulated in Hoxa9/Meis1 AML inducing cell lines as well as in AML patients. We further showed Meis1 directly targeting miR-708 and modulating its expression through epigenetic transcriptional regulation. CRISPR/Cas9 mediated knockout of miR-708 in Hoxa9/Meis1 cells delayed disease onset in vivo, demonstrating for the first time a pro-leukemic contribution of miR-708 in this context. Overexpression of miR-708 however strongly impeded Hoxa9 mediated transformation and homing capacity in vivo through modulation of adhesion factors and induction of myeloid differentiation. Taken together, we reveal miR-708, a putative tumor suppressor miRNA and direct target of Meis1, as a potent antagonist of the Hoxa9 phenotype but an effector of transformation in Hoxa9/Meis1. This unexpected finding highlights the yet unexplored role of miRNAs as indirect regulators of the Hox program during normal and aberrant hematopoiesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic*
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / antagonists & inhibitors
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / pathology*
  • Myeloid Ecotropic Viral Integration Site 1 Protein / genetics
  • Myeloid Ecotropic Viral Integration Site 1 Protein / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • MEIS1 protein, human
  • MIRN708 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Myeloid Ecotropic Viral Integration Site 1 Protein
  • homeobox protein HOXA9

Grant support