RUNX1 is frequently mutated in myeloid and lymphoid malignancies. It has been shown to negatively regulate Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling through nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) in lung epithelial cells. Here we show that RUNX1 regulates TLR1/2 and TLR4 signaling and inflammatory cytokine production by neutrophils. Hematopoietic-specific RUNX1 loss increased the production of proinflammatory mediators, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), by bone marrow neutrophils in response to TLR1/2 and TLR4 agonists. Hematopoietic RUNX1 loss also resulted in profound damage to the lung parenchyma following inhalation of the TLR4 ligand lipopolysaccharide (LPS). However, neutrophils with neutrophil-specific RUNX1 loss lacked the inflammatory phenotype caused by pan-hematopoietic RUNX1 loss, indicating that dysregulated TLR4 signaling is not due to loss of RUNX1 in neutrophils per se. Rather, single-cell RNA sequencing indicates the dysregulation originates in a neutrophil precursor. Enhanced inflammatory cytokine production by neutrophils following pan-hematopoietic RUNX1 loss correlated with increased degradation of the inhibitor of NF-κB signaling, and RUNX1-deficient neutrophils displayed broad transcriptional upregulation of many of the core components of the TLR4 signaling pathway. Hence, early, pan-hematopoietic RUNX1 loss de-represses an innate immune signaling transcriptional program that is maintained in terminally differentiated neutrophils, resulting in their hyperinflammatory state. We hypothesize that inflammatory cytokine production by neutrophils may contribute to leukemia associated with inherited RUNX1 mutations.
© 2020 by The American Society of Hematology.