Chromatin modifying enzymes, and specifically the protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) have emerged as important targets in cancer. PRMT4, also known as CARM1, is overexpressed in a number of cancers, including breast, prostate, pancreatic, and lung cancer. Our lab reported the overexpression of PRMT4 in the context of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), showing that more than 70% of cytogenetically normal AML patients have up-regulation of PRMT4. Here, we investigated the role of PRMT4 in normal hematopoiesis and leukemia development.

In order to study the role of PRMT4 in normal hematopoiesis, Prmt4-floxed mice were crossed with Vav1-cre mice purchased from the Jackson Laboratory. Inducible Prmt4 conditional KO mice were generated by crossing Prmt4-floxed mice with Mx1-Cre mice and Prmt4 gene excision was induced by poly(I:C). Using this hematopoietic specific knockout system, we show that loss of PRMT4 has little effect on normal hematopoiesis, but promotes the differentiation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Next we evaluated the role of PRMT4 in leukemia development using leukemia transplantation models driven by fusion oncoproteins. Strikingly, the knockout of PRMT4 completely abrogates leukemia initiation in fetal liver transplantation models driven by the AML1-ETO or MLL-AF9 fusion proteins. We further characterized the mechanism for the leukemia-specific dependence on PRMT4 using leukemia cell lines and found that knockdown of PRMT4 impairs cell cycle progression, decreases proliferation, and induces rapid apoptosis. To examine PRMT4 dependent changes in gene expression in a leukemia system, we used lentiviral vectors that express RFP and shRNAs directed against PRMT4. We knocked down PRMT4 in four leukemia cell lines or normal human cord-blood derived CD34+ cells. Gene set enrichment analysis showed that all four leukemia cell lines with knockdown of PRMT4 significantly down-regulated E2F target genes compared to the scrambled control. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis (ChIP) confirmed the presence of PRMT4 and H3R17 dimethylation at the promoter regions of E2F1 targets.

The PRMT4 conditional knockout mice and PRMT4 knockdown experiments both suggest that the loss of PRMT4 protein has a selective effect on leukemia cells compared to normal hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Collectively, this work suggests that targeting PRMT4 through chemical inhibition may be an effective therapeutic strategy for AML and other cancers with up-regulation of PRMT4.

Citation Format: Sarah M. Greenblatt, Pierre-Jacques J. Hamard, Takashi Asai, Na Man, Concepcion Martinez-Caja, Fan Liu, Stephen Nimer. Identification of CARM1/PRMT4 as a novel therapeutic target for AML [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 3340. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-3340