Purpose:

DNMT3A mutations confer a poor prognosis in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but the molecular mechanisms downstream of DNMT3A mutations in disease pathogenesis are not completely understood, limiting targeted therapeutic options. The role of miRNA in DNMT3A-mutant AML pathogenesis is understudied.

Experimental Design:

DNA methylation and miRNA expression was evaluated in human AML patient samples and in Dnmt3a/Flt3-mutant AML mice. The treatment efficacy and molecular mechanisms of TLR7/8-directed therapies on DNMT3A-mutant AML were evaluated in vitro on human AML patient samples and in Dnmt3a/Flt3-mutant AML mice.

Results:

miR-196b is hypomethylated and overexpressed in DNMT3A-mutant AML and is associated with poor patient outcome. miR-196b overexpression in DNMT3A-mutant AML is important to maintain an immature state and leukemic cell survival through repression of TLR signaling. The TLR7/8 agonist resiquimod induces dendritic cell–like differentiation with costimulatory molecule expression in DNMT3A-mutant AML cells and provides a survival benefit to Dnmt3a/Flt3-mutant AML mice. The small molecule bryostatin-1 augments resiquimod-mediated AML growth inhibition and differentiation.

Conclusions:

DNMT3A loss-of-function mutations cause miRNA locus-specific hypomethylation and overexpression important for mutant DNMT3A–mediated pathogenesis and clinical outcomes. Specifically, the overexpression of miR-196b in DNMT3A-mutant AML creates a novel therapeutic vulnerability by controlling sensitivity to TLR7/8-directed therapies.

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