DNA crosslinking and recombination-activating genes 1/2 (RAG1/2) are required for oncogenic splicing in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Cancer Commun (Lond). 2021 Nov;41(11):1116-1136. doi: 10.1002/cac2.12234. Epub 2021 Oct 26.


Background: Abnormal alternative splicing is frequently associated with carcinogenesis. In B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), double homeobox 4 fused with immunoglobulin heavy chain (DUX4/IGH) can lead to the aberrant production of E-26 transformation-specific family related gene abnormal transcript (ERGalt ) and other splicing variants. However, the molecular mechanism underpinning this process remains elusive. Here, we aimed to know how DUX4/IGH triggers abnormal splicing in leukemia.

Methods: The differential intron retention analysis was conducted to identify novel DUX4/IGH-driven splicing in B-ALL patients. X-ray crystallography, small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), and analytical ultracentrifugation were used to investigate how DUX4/IGH recognize double DUX4 responsive element (DRE)-DRE sites. The ERGalt biogenesis and B-cell differentiation assays were performed to characterize the DUX4/IGH crosslinking activity. To check whether recombination-activating gene 1/2 (RAG1/2) was required for DUX4/IGH-driven splicing, the proximity ligation assay, co-immunoprecipitation, mammalian two hybrid characterizations, in vitro RAG1/2 cleavage, and shRNA knock-down assays were performed.

Results: We reported previously unrecognized intron retention events in C-type lectin domain family 12, member A abnormal transcript (CLEC12Aalt ) and chromosome 6 open reading frame 89 abnormal transcript (C6orf89alt ), where also harbored repetitive DRE-DRE sites. Supportively, X-ray crystallography and SAXS characterization revealed that DUX4 homeobox domain (HD)1-HD2 might dimerize into a dumbbell-shape trans configuration to crosslink two adjacent DRE sites. Impaired DUX4/IGH-mediated crosslinking abolishes ERGalt , CLEC12Aalt , and C6orf89alt biogenesis, resulting in marked alleviation of its inhibitory effect on B-cell differentiation. Furthermore, we also observed a rare RAG1/2-mediated recombination signal sequence-like DNA edition in DUX4/IGH target genes. Supportively, shRNA knock-down of RAG1/2 in leukemic Reh cells consistently impaired the biogenesis of ERGalt , CLEC12Aalt , and C6orf89alt .

Conclusions: All these results suggest that DUX4/IGH-driven DNA crosslinking is required for RAG1/2 recruitment onto the double tandem DRE-DRE sites, catalyzing V(D)J-like recombination and oncogenic splicing in acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Keywords: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; DUX4/IGH; ERGalt; RAG1/2; alternative splicing.