Understanding mechanisms of cooperation between oncogenes is critical for the development of novel therapies and rational combinations. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells with KMT2A-fusions and KMT2A partial tandem duplications (KMT2APTD) are known to depend on the histone methyltransferase DOT1L, which methylates histone 3 lysine 79 (H3K79). About 30% of KMT2APTD AMLs carry mutations in IDH1/2 (mIDH1/2). Previous studies showed that 2-hydroxyglutarate produced by mIDH1/2 increases H3K79 methylation, and mIDH1/2 patient samples are sensitive to DOT1L inhibition. Together, these findings suggested that stabilization or increases in H3K79 methylation associated with IDH mutations support the proliferation of leukemias dependent on this mark. However, we found that mIDH1/2 and KMT2A alterations failed to cooperate in an experimental model. Instead, mIDH1/2 and 2-hydroxyglutarate exert toxic effects, specifically on KMT2A-rearranged AML cells (fusions/partial tandem duplications). Mechanistically, we uncover an epigenetic barrier to efficient cooperation; mIDH1/2 expression is associated with high global histone 3 lysine 79 dimethylation (H3K79me2) levels, whereas global H3K79me2 is obligate low in KMT2A-rearranged AML. Increasing H3K79me2 levels, specifically in KMT2A-rearrangement leukemias, resulted in transcriptional downregulation of KMT2A target genes and impaired leukemia cell growth. Our study details a complex genetic and epigenetic interaction of 2 classes of oncogenes, IDH1/2 mutations and KMT2A rearrangements, that is unexpected based on the high percentage of IDH mutations in KMT2APTD AML. KMT2A rearrangements are associated with a trend toward lower response rates to mIDH1/2 inhibitors. The substantial adaptation that has to occur for 2 initially counteracting mutations to be tolerated within the same leukemic cell may provide at least a partial explanation for this observation.
© 2020 by The American Society of Hematology.