Chromatin accessibility, p300 and histone acetylation define PML-RARα and AML1-ETO binding sites in acute myeloid leukemia.
Chromatin accessibility plays a key role in regulating cell type specific gene expression during hematopoiesis, but has also been suggested to be aberrantly regulated during leukemogenesis. To understand the leukemogenic chromatin signature we analyzed acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of leukemia characterized by the expression of RARα-fusion proteins such as PML-RARα. We used nuclease accessibility sequencing in cell lines as well as patient blasts to identify accessible DNA elements and identified over 100,000 accessible regions in each case. Using ChIP-seq we identified H2A.Z as a histone modification generally associated with these accessible regions while unsupervised clustering analysis of other chromatin features including DNA methylation, H2A.Zac, H3ac, H3K9me3, H3K27me3 and the regulatory factor p300 distinguished six distinct clusters of accessible sites, each with a characteristic functional make-up. Of these, PML-RARα binding was found specifically at accessible chromatin regions characterized by p300 binding and hypoacetylated histones. Identifying regions with a similar epigenetic make up in t(8;21) AML cells, another subtype of AMLs, revealed that these regions are occupied by the oncofusion protein AML1-ETO. Together our results suggest that oncofusion proteins localize to accessible regions and that chromatin accessibility together with p300 binding and histone acetylation characterize AML1-ETO and PML-RARα binding sites.