Translational oncology

Targeting Suppressor of Variegation 3-9 Homologue 2 (SUV39H2) in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

PMID 26500027


Although recent progress in understanding the biology and optimizing the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has improved cure rates of childhood ALL to nearly 90%, the cure rate in adult ALL remains less than 50%. The poor prognosis in adult ALL has in part been attributed to larger proportion of high-risk leukemia showing drug resistance. Thus, identifying novel therapeutic targets in ALL is needed for further improvements in treatment outcomes of adult ALL. Genetic aberration of chromatin-modifying molecules has been recently reported in subtypes of ALL, and targeting components of chromatin complexes has shown promising efficacy in preclinical studies. Suppressor of variegation 3-9 homologue 2 (SUV39H2), also known as KMT1B, is a SET-domain-containing histone methyltransferase that is upregulated in solid cancers, but its expression is hardly detectable in normal tissues. Here, we show that SUV39H2 is highly expressed in ALL cells but not in blood cells from healthy donors and also that SUV39H2 mRNA is expressed at significantly higher levels in bone marrow or blood cells from patients with ALL obtained at diagnosis compared with those obtained at remission (P = .007). In four ALL cell lines (Jurkat and CEM derived from T-ALL and RS4;11 and REH derived from B-ALL), SUV39H2 knockdown resulted in a significant decrease in cell viability (~77%, P < .001), likely through induction of apoptosis. On the other hand, SUV39H2 overexpression made cells more resistant to chemotherapy. We conclude that SUV39H2 is a promising therapeutic target and further investigation of this therapeutic approach in ALL is warranted.