Lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) regulates several biological processes via the bifunctional modulation of enhancer functions. Recently, we reported that LSD1 overexpression is a founder abnormality of T-cell leukemogenesis and is maintained in fully transformed T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells. On the basis of this finding, we attempted to develop novel LSD1 inhibitors effective for T-ALL with central nervous system (CNS) involvement.
We chemically modified the prototype LSD inhibitor tranylcypromine (TCP) and screened for cytotoxicity against TCP-resistant T-ALL cell lines. In vivo efficacy of novel LSD1 inhibitors was examined in immunodeficient mice transplanted with luciferase-expressing T-ALL cell lines, which faithfully reproduce human T-ALL with CNS involvement.
We found robust cytotoxicity against T-ALL cells, but not normal bone marrow progenitors, for two N-alkylated TCP derivatives, S2116 and S2157. The two compounds induced apoptosis in TCP-resistant T-ALL cells in vitro and in vivo by repressing transcription of the NOTCH3 and TAL1 genes through increased H3K9 methylation and reciprocal H3K27 deacetylation at superenhancer regions. Both S2116 and S2157 significantly retarded the growth of T-ALL cells in xenotransplanted mice and prolonged the survival of recipients as monotherapy and in combination with dexamethasone. Notably, S2157 could almost completely eradicate CNS leukemia because of its ability to efficiently pass through the blood–brain barrier.
These findings provide a molecular basis and rationale for the inclusion of a brain-permeable LSD1 inhibitor, S2157, in treatment strategies for T-ALL with CNS involvement.
This article is featured in Highlights of This Issue, p. 1439
Treatment outcome of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is still worse than that of other hematologic malignancies. A critical determinant of a poor prognosis is arguably a high incidence of central nervous system (CNS) involvement because of the low penetrance of commonly used anti-ALL drugs into the brain. Despite the fundamental role of lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) in T-cell leukemogenesis, conventional LSD1 inhibitors, such as tranylcypromine (TCP), were shown to be ineffective for T-ALL cells in several preclinical studies. We therefore modified TCP to develop novel LSD1 inhibitors with higher activity and specificity for T-ALL. One of the newly developed inhibitors, S2157, showed robust cytotoxicity against TCP-resistant T-ALL cells both in vitro and in xenotransplanted mice. Notably, S2157 could eradicate CNS leukemia because of its ability to efficiently pass through the blood–brain barrier. This brain-permeable LSD1 inhibitor is promising as a novel therapeutic agent for T-ALL with CNS involvement.
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematologic malignancy originated from T-cell progenitors, which accounts for 15% of pediatric and 25% of adult ALL cases (1). Despite the application of intensive multiagent chemotherapy with stem cell support, the treatment outcome of T-ALL is worse than that of other leukemias including acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and B-cell ALL (B-ALL), mainly due to a higher prevalence of central nervous system (CNS) involvement (2, 3). Because of the low penetrance of conventional antileukemic agents, CNS provides a sanctuary for leukemic cells and thus is one of the most frequent sites of relapse in T-ALL patients (4, 5). Current treatments for CNS leukemias, such as intrathecal injection of anticancer drugs, cranial irradiation, and high-dose systemic chemotherapy, are not only curative but also associated with acute and/or long-term serious neurotoxicity (6). Given the limitation of current strategies, novel agents that can effectively cross the blood–brain barrier to target CNS lesions are in high demand.
Lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1, also called KDM1A/AOF2/BHC110) is a flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)–dependent histone demethylase that removes the mono- and dimethyl groups from lysine-4 and lysine-9 residues of histone H3 (hereinafter H3K4 and H3K9, respectively; ref. 7). LSD1 bifunctionally modulates the enhancer/promoter functions of target genes in a context-dependent manner: a repressive function via H3K4 demethylation as a component of the CoREST and NuRD complexes (8) and an activator function via H3K9 demethylation when associated with steroid hormone receptors (9). Hence, LSD1 plays indispensable roles in several biological processes including ontogenesis, hematopoiesis, and oncogenesis.
Using a genetic approach, we have demonstrated that LSD1 hyperactivation is a founder abnormality for the development of T-ALL (10). LSD1 overexpression primes hematopoietic stem cells for T-cell leukemogenesis and is maintained in fully transformed T-ALL cells. These findings encourage the use of small molecular compounds that inhibit LSD1 activity for the treatment of T-ALL; however, most LSD1 inhibitors, including the prototype compound tranylcypromine (trans-2-phenylcyclopropylamine; TCP) and its derivative S2101 (11), did not show robust efficacy against leukemias of T-cell origin in several preclinical studies (12–14). We therefore modified S2101 by N-alkylation to develop novel compounds S2116 and S2157. The two compounds induced apoptosis in T-ALL cell lines with significantly lower IC50 values than S2101 and other TCP derivatives. Furthermore, S2157 could eradicate CNS leukemia in mice transplanted with T-ALL cells due to its ability to efficiently pass through the blood–brain barrier. These LSD1 inhibitors may improve the treatment outcome of T-ALL, especially when complicated with CNS disease, by combining with current treatment strategies.
Materials and Methods
Cells and cell culture
We used five bona fide human T-ALL cell lines, CEM, Jurkat, MOLT4, Loucy, and PEER, in this study (Health Science Research Resources Bank). Other cell lines and their origins are HEL, MV4-11, K562, KCL22 (AML), KMS12-BM, KMS28 (multiple myeloma), and PALL2 (B-ALL). Primary T-ALL cells were isolated from the peripheral blood of patients at the time of diagnostic procedure and used when blasts were >90% of mononuclear cells. Normal human bone marrow progenitor cells were purchased from Takara Bio and cultured in the presence of stem cell factor and thrombopoietin (10). We obtained written-informed consent from all patients in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of Jichi Medical University and University of Yamanashi.
LSD1 inhibitors used in this study include RN-1 (Calbiochem), ORY-1001 (Cayman Chemical), OG-L002 (Selleck Chemicals), S2101 (Millipore), and two N-alkylated derivatives of S2101: S2116 and S2157 (synthesized by Tokyo Chemical Industry; ref. 15). A pharmacokinetic study was conducted with a single i.p. injection of either S2116 or S2157 at 50 mg/kg to nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency (NOD/SCID) mice (Charles River Laboratories), followed by serial sampling of blood at 1, 2, 4, 8, and 24 hours after administration. Brain tissues were harvested at 0.5 hour and homogenized in deionized water. Plasma and brain samples were subjected to LC-MS/MS analysis to determine the concentrations of each drug.
Semiquantitative RT-PCR and real-time quantitative RT-PCR
Total cellular RNA was isolated using an RNeasy Kit (Qiagen), reverse-transcribed into complementary DNA using ReverTra Ace and oligo(dT) primers (Toyobo), and subjected to subsequent RT-PCR analysis for gene expression (16). Detailed information on semiquantitative RT-PCR primers, including sequences, corresponding nucleotide positions, and PCR product sizes, is described in Supplementary Table S1. We used the Expression Assays (Hs01097987 for TAL1, Hs01128537 for NOTCH3, Hs00207691 for ZEB2, and Hs01922876 for GAPDH) and TaqMan Fast Universal PCR Master Mix (Applied Biosystems) for real-time quantitative RT-PCR (RQ-PCR).
Global analysis of gene expression
MOLT4 cells were cultured with either vehicle alone (0.1% DMSO) or 12 μmol/L S2157 for 24 hours. RNA samples (50 ng) were T7 transcribed in the presence of Cy3- or Cy-5 CTP, and hybridized with the SurePrint G3 Human Gene Expression 8 × 60K v2 Microarray (Agilent). The hybridized arrays were scanned with an Agilent G2565AA scanner, and the obtained images were processed using the Agilent Feature Extraction Software (version 10.7.3.1). Microarray data have been deposited in the MIAME-compliant GEO database under accession number GSE85956.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays
We used the ChIP-IT Express Enzymatic Kit (Active Motif) to perform chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays (17). In brief, we fixed cells in 1% formaldehyde at room temperature for 10 minutes and isolated chromatin fractions using enzymatic shearing. After centrifugation, supernatants were incubated with antibodies of interest or isotype-matched control and protein G magnetic beads at 4°C overnight. We purified DNA fragments from the mixture according to the manufacturer's instructions and carried out PCR using Mighty Amp (Takara Bio.) or Power SYBR Green Master Mix (Life Technologies) and the primers listed in Supplementary Table S2. We outsourced ChIP-seq analyses to Active Motif and deposited the data along with a protocol in the MINSEQE-compliant GEO database under accession number GSE120314.
Establishment of T-ALL sublines
Lentiviral vectors encoding full-length NOTCH3 and TAL1 cDNAs were purchased from Addgene and delivered into 293FT cells with packaging plasmids for viral production. T-ALL cells were transduced with infective lentiviruses for 24 hours as previously described for luciferase-expressing sublines (18). We established stable transformants by isolating single-cell clones using limiting dilution.
Reproduction of T-ALL in mice with xenotransplantation
Luciferase-expressing T-ALL cell lines (5 × 106 cells for MOLT4 and 1 × 107 cells for Jurkat in 200 μL of Iscove's Modified Dulbecco's Medium) were injected via a tail vein into NOD/SCID mice. Tumor progression was monitored by measuring luciferase activity ex vivo using the noninvasive bioimaging system (Xenogen; refs. 15–18). All animal studies were approved by the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee and performed in accordance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals formulated by the National Academy of Sciences.
Other conventional techniques are described in Supplementary Materials and Methods.
N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors induce apoptotic cell death in T-ALL cells at clinically relevant concentrations in vitro
Given the fundamental role of LSD1 hyperactivity in T-cell leukemogenesis and maintenance of tumor phenotypes (10), we investigated whether T-ALL cells are vulnerable to LSD1 inhibition using conventional LSD1 inhibitors S2101 and OG-L002. As anticipated, T-ALL cell lines were more sensitive to both drugs than other malignant hematopoietic cells except for the B-ALL cell line PALL2, which was equally sensitive to LSD1 inhibitors (Fig. 1A; Supplementary Fig. S1). Although S2101 and OG-L002 appeared to be cytotoxic against T-ALL, the IC50 values were not clinically relevant (≥20 μmol/L); therefore, we tested several N-alkylated derivatives of S2101 with lower Ki values and higher specificity for LSD1 than other FAD-dependent amine oxidases such as LSD2, monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), and MAO-B (Niwa and colleagues, manuscript in preparation and ref. 15). Among them, S2116 and S2157 were particularly effective for T-ALL cell lines with the IC50 values between 1.1 ± 0.2 μmol/L for CEM and 6.8 ± 1.3 μmol/L for MOLT4 (Fig. 1B). The two compounds did not affect the viability of CD34-positive normal hematopoietic progenitor cells at all (Fig. 1C) and modestly inhibited that of mitogen-activated normal T-lymphocytes (Supplementary Fig. S2). The N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors induced apoptosis, as evidenced by increased Annexin-V reactivity on flow cytometry (Fig. 1D; Supplementary Fig. S3), in T-ALL cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner without affecting cell-cycle distribution (Supplementary Fig. S4). These effects were seemingly mediated through LSD1 inhibition because the methylation levels of H3K4 and H3K9 increased with kinetics similar to the induction of apoptosis by S2116 and S2157 (Fig. 1E). Furthermore, LSD1 overexpression significantly mitigated the cytotoxicity of the inhibitor in T-ALL cells, providing an additional proof of the on-target effect (Fig. 1F). However, the expression level of LSD1 was not a determinant of the sensitivity to LSD1 inhibitors (Supplementary Fig. S5).
LSD1 inhibitors modify the gene expression program in favor of cell death in T-ALL cells
Next, we investigated the molecular mechanisms by which the N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors cause T-ALL cell death. Toward this end, we initially performed a global screening for LSD1 inhibition–mediated changes in the gene expression program of T-ALL cells. As illustrated in Fig. 2A, S2157 induced greater than 2-fold increase and decrease in the abundance of 909 and 148 genes, respectively, among 32,078 genes on the array in MOLT4 cells (P < 0.05 with an FDR threshold of 0.05). No significant change was detected in the expression levels of NOTCH1, constitutive activation of which is the most frequent abnormality in T-ALL (18, 19), and its downstream effectors such as HES1, CYLD, GATA3, and RUNX3 (Supplementary Fig. S6 and the data deposited in GEO #GSE85956), in line with our previous finding that LSD1 and Notch1 act redundantly with NOTCH1 mutations as a later event during T-cell leukemogenesis (10). The latter notion was also verified in human T-ALL by single-cell clonal analysis (20). Instead, the downregulated genes include NOTCH3 and TAL1, both of which are known to be oncogenic drivers confounding with NOTCH1 in T-ALL cells (21–24). The decrease in NOTCH3 and TAL1 expression was confirmed in other combinations of LSD1 inhibitors and T-ALL cell lines by semiquantitative RT-PCR (Fig. 2B), RQ-PCR (Fig. 2C; Supplementary Fig. S7), and immunoblotting (Fig. 2D; Supplementary Fig. S8). Furthermore, the expression level of Notch3 and TAL1, but not Notch1, was correlated with the cellular sensitivity to S2116 and S2157 (Supplementary Figs. S5 and S9). Regarding the mechanisms of NOTCH3 and TAL1 downregulation, we found that both S2116 and S2157 readily increased the methylation level of H3K9 and reciprocally reduced the acetylation level of H3K27 at superenhancer regions of the NOTCH3 and TAL1 genes (GRCh38/hg38:15,198,031-15,197,862 and GRCh38/hg38: 47,239,435-47,239,119, respectively; refs. 25, 26) using ChIP assays (Fig. 2E; Supplementary Fig. S10 for data quantification) and ChIP with quantitative PCR (Supplementary Fig. S11). In addition, global ChIP-seq analyses revealed that the acetylation level of H3K27 was readily decreased by LSD1 inhibition through the entire range of NOTCH3 and TAL1 enhancers (Fig. 2F, right). However, S2157 rather increased H3K27 acetylation at the whole-genome level (Fig. 2F, left, and Supplementary Fig. S12), in agreement with the microarray data that upregulated genes were 6-fold higher in number than downregulated genes (Fig. 2A). These results suggest that the N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors selectively cease hyperactive oncogenic enhancers, leading to apoptosis of addicted cells.
Notch3 and TAL1 are bona fide targets of the N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors in T-ALL
To verify that Notch3 and TAL1 are targets of LSD1 inhibitors, we performed shRNA-mediated knockdown and found that the expression levels of Notch3 and TAL1, but not Notch1, declined in correlation with the decreased abundance of LSD1 in T-ALL cells (Fig. 3A). In addition, we established Notch3- and TAL1-overexpressing MOLT4 sublines (Fig. 3B, top plots). As anticipated, forced expression of either Notch3 or TAL1 imparted the resistance to S2116 and S2157 in T-ALL cells (Fig. 3B, bottom plots). However, dual expression of Notch3 and TAL1 could not completely rescue T-ALL cells from the effect of LSD1 inhibitors (Supplementary Fig. S13), because TAL1 expression was not further upregulated in double-transformants, probably due to redundancy of the two oncogenes (21). In fact, Notch3 overexpression increased the abundance of several interrelated and/or downstream molecules such as TAL1, c-Myb, and Cyclin D1 (Fig. 3C). Upon overexpression, c-Myb and Cyclin D1 deregulate cellular homeostasis and may act as proapoptotic factors (27, 28), providing an explanation of the failure of complete rescue from the drug effects in Notch3/TAL1 double-transfected cells. In patient-derived primary T-ALL cells, the reduction in viable cell numbers was mostly associated with the decreased expression of TAL1 and NOTCH3 under treatment with S2116 and S2157 (Fig. 3D). These results imply that the cytotoxic effect of N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors is at least partly mediated through the downregulation of Notch3 and TAL1 in T-ALL cells, but the involvement of other targets cannot be ruled out.
The N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors induce apoptotic cell death in T-ALL cells in vivo
Having demonstrated the robust cytotoxicity against T-ALL cells in vitro, we sought to investigate therapeutic effects of the N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors in vivo using xenograft systems. First, we carried out a pilot experiment, in which antileukemic activity and safety were tested in NOD/SCID mice xenografted with T-ALL cells (18). The MTD was not determined for S2116 and S2157 because no obvious changes were observed in complete blood count, liver and kidney functions, or a histopathologic examination of some organs in NOD/SCID mice treated with up to 150 mg/kg of the drugs (Supplementary Fig. S14), whereas MTD was defined to be 12.5 mg/kg for OG-L002 as recipients died immediately after i.p. injection of the drug ≥25 mg/kg for unknown causes. The size of subcutaneous tumors reduced to less than 20% of that in the untreated control by i.p. injection of either S2116 or S2157 at 50 mg/kg for 3 times a week (Supplementary Fig. S15A) with negligible side effects, such as moderate leukocytosis and thrombocytopenia without bleeding tendency (Supplementary Fig. S16). In addition, S2116 significantly prolonged the overall survival of MOLT4-inoculated mice (Supplementary Fig. S15B). Encouraged by these results, we examined therapeutic effects of LSD1 inhibitors on systemic T-ALL disease generated by tail-vein injection of luciferase-expressing MOLT4 cells into NOD/SCID mice. Injected MOLT4 cells were widely distributed within sacral and vertebral bone marrow (7 days after transplantation), followed by CNS involvement (10 days after transplantation) that faithfully reproduces human leukemic meningitis with subsequent parenchymal invasion (Fig. 4A; Supplementary Fig. S17). Because of a high incidence of CNS involvement, one of the most important requirements of novel therapeutic agents for T-ALL is the ability to pass through the blood–brain barrier. A pharmacokinetic study revealed that S2157 had approximately 50-fold higher maximal brain concentrations and a >75-fold higher brain/plasma concentration ratio than S2116 after a single i.p. injection at 50 mg/kg in NOD/SCID (Table 1) and ICR mice (Supplementary Table S3). Based on the pharmacokinetic data, S2157 was chosen for the treatment of mice harboring systemic T-ALL disease. As shown in Fig. 4A and B, S2157 almost completely suppressed the growth of MOLT4 cells in most but not all mice by twice-per-week injection at either 30 or 50 mg/kg. Histopathologic examination revealed that CNS leukemia nearly disappeared with some residual cells undergoing apoptosis as demonstrated by the presence of apoptotic bodies (Fig. 4C), DNA fragmentation (Fig. 4D), and caspase-9 cleavage (Fig. 4E) in human CD3-expressing cells in the brain of recipient mice. It is noted that Notch3 and TAL1 were readily downregulated in MOLT4 cells in S2157-treated mice, suggesting that the two molecules are targets of LSD1 inhibition also in vivo (Fig. 4E). In addition, we carried out the same experiment using a luciferase-expressing Jurkat subline and verified a therapeutic benefit of S2157 including the eradication of CNS disease (Fig. 4F). In contrast, another LSD1 inhibitor, OG-L002, failed to show antileukemic activity at its MTD in this system.
LSD1 inhibitors exhibit synergistic effects with conventional antileukemic agents in vitro and in murine xenografts
Recent clinical trials clearly demonstrated that the addition of molecular target agents to standard regimens conferred significant therapeutic benefits to patients with intractable malignancies such as Philadelphia chromosome-positive B-ALL (29) and AML with FLT3 mutations (30). The developed LSD1 inhibitors may be combined with conventional antileukemic drugs to increase the therapeutic index in T-ALL patients. To validate this assumption, we investigated whether S2116 and S2157 exerted synergistic effects with four drugs commonly used for the initial treatment of T-ALL and bortezomib, whose activity against T-ALL was proved in preclinical studies (18, 31) and in some clinical trials (32). An isobologram analysis revealed that S2157 was synergistic with dexamethasone and l-asparaginase as well as additive with 4-hydroxycyclophosphamide (4-OHCY) and bortezomib (Fig. 5A and B), whereas S2116 was only synergistic with l-asparaginase and made additive combinations with dexamethasone and cytosine arabinoside (Fig. 5B; Supplementary Fig. S18). The synergy between S2157 and either dexamethasone or l-asparaginase was also observed in primary T-ALL cells (Supplementary Fig. S19). The superb combination of LSD1 inhibitors and dexamethasone is at least partly explained by our previous finding that dexamethasone downregulates the expression of mutant Notch1, which is unaffected by LSD1 inhibitors, at transcriptional levels in T-ALL cells (18). From these results, we decided to test the combined effects of S2157 and dexamethasone in a murine xenograft model, because l-asparaginase has a narrow therapeutic window and is too toxic for NOD/SCID mice (33). As shown in Fig. 5C, single-agent chemotherapy with S2157 but not dexamethasone significantly prolonged the survival of T-ALL transplanted mice (P = 0.00246 with an HR of 0.2371 against untreated mice by the log-rank test), but the effect of combination was more striking with an HR of 0.1787 against untreated control. These observations confirm the results of in vitro experiments and further suggest that combination therapies containing a brain-permeable LSD1 inhibitor may be effective for T-ALL in a clinical setting, especially when complicated with CNS disease.
Several lines of evidence indicate that LSD1 is overexpressed and hyperactivated in various malignancies, including T-ALL in which LSD1 plays an initiating role and is indispensable for the maintenance of tumor phenotypes (10). Hence, specific inhibitors for LSD1 hold a promise as a novel type of anticancer agents (34, 35). In fact, several LSD1 inhibitors were developed, and their anticancer efficacy has been investigated in preclinical studies. For example, LSD1 binds to leukemic fusion proteins, such as MLL-AF9 and PML-PARα, and acts as a direct effector to sustain the leukemic stem cell potential and prevent normal differentiation (36, 37). A prototype LSD1 inhibitor, TCP, could remodel the oncogenic program to induce differentiation and cell death in AML carrying leukemic fusion proteins (37, 38). However, TCP may not be used for cancer treatment, because it inhibits other FAD-dependent enzymes, such as MAO-A and MAO-B, more potently due to covalent binding to FAD, raising the concern of neuronal toxicity especially when applied at high doses in cancer patients. To circumvent this issue, a series of TCP derivatives with increased specificity to LSD1 have been developed, including S2101 (11), OG-L002 (39), RN-1 (12), ORY-1001 (40), GSK2879552 (14, 41), IMG-7289 (34), NCD38 (42), and T-3775440 (13, 43, 44). Among them, phase I/II clinical trials of ORY-1001, GSK2879552, and IMG-7289 are ongoing for patients with AML and small cell lung cancer (34). It is of note that S2101 could specifically target glioblastoma stem cells, albeit at preclinical levels (45), consistent with the initiating role of LSD1 in oncogenesis.
Despite the fundamental role of LSD-1 in T-cell leukemogenesis, the first-generation TCP derivatives are not effective for T-ALL in contrast with their robust activity against AML. It has been reported that the IC50 values of RN-1, T-3775440, and NCD38 were >10 μmol/L, whereas all three agents induced myeloid differentiation of AML and preleukemic MDS cells by disrupting the leukemogenic LSD1-GFI1B complex at <1 μmol/L (12–14, 42). A recent elegant study by Goossens and colleagues provides a mechanistic insight into the resistance of T-ALL cells to LSD1 inhibition (14). One of the TCP derivatives, GSK2879552, failed to show proapoptotic activity in murine genetically engineered T-ALL and human T-ALL cell lines such as MOLT4, Jurkat, HPB-ALL, and KARPAS45. They identified that ZEB2, a homeobox transcription factor (46), forms an oncogenic complex with LSD1 in early T-cell progenitor ALL (ETP-ALL) and determines the sensitivity to LSD1 inhibitors. GSK2879552-resistant T-ALL cells lack the expression of ZEB2 and restore the drug response upon the reinstitution of ZEB2. In striking contrast, S2116 and S2157 were effective for T-ALL cells lacking ZEB2, but relatively ineffective for ZEB2-positive ETP-ALL cell lines such as Loucy and PEER (Supplementary Fig. S20). Moreover, the absence of Notch3 and TAL1 overexpression may account for the insensitivity of ETP-ALL cells to S2116 and S2157 (refs. 24–26; Supplementary Fig. S21). Nonetheless, further investigations, especially crystallographic studies, are required to elucidate the mechanisms by which S2116 and S2157 are only effective for ZEB2-deficient T-ALL cells.
Superenhancers were originally defined as the regulatory region highly enriched for the binding of the Mediator complex and transcriptional activators through unique histone modifications, providing a platform for cell-specific transcriptional outputs that drive identity in particular cell types, especially pluripotent stem cells and cancer cells (25, 26, 47, 48). In a subset of T-ALL including Jurkat and MOLT4 cell lines, heterozygous somatic mutations create the superenhancers upstream of T-ALL oncogenes such as TAL1 and NOTCH 2/3 (25, 26). Our data suggest that LSD1 inhibition induces specific, but not global, enhancer decommissioning in Notch3/TAL1-dependent T-ALL cells. It is possible that S2116 and S2157 remodel the enhancer function by switching LSD1 complexes from transcriptional activators to repressors at specific regions. This scenario is partly supported by the preliminary finding that these compounds did not affect the binding of HDACs to LSD1 (Supplementary Fig. S22).
The CNS involvement is a critical determinant of the prognosis of T-ALL patients (1, 6). Most of anticancer drugs used for the treatment of T-ALL cannot pass through the blood–brain barrier unless administered at high doses or via direct intrathecal injection. The high penetrance of LSD1 inhibitors into the brain is an obvious advantage over other drugs in T-ALL treatment (49). In particular, S2157 showed a very high brain/blood concentration ratio at pharmacokinetic studies and was indeed effective for the eradication of CNS disease in murine xenografts without detectable neurotoxicity because of its negligible effects on brain monoamine oxidases. It is possible that LSD1 inhibitors prevent the invasion of T-ALL cells into the brain. To test this hypothesis, we compared the effects of S2157, a brain-permeable LSD1 inhibitor, and S2116, a brain-impermeable LSD1 inhibitor (Table 1; Supplementary Table S3), on CNS involvement in a murine xenotransplant model. As shown in Supplementary Fig. S23, S2116 failed to eradicate CNS disease, although the efficacy on bone marrow lesions was comparable with that of S2157. Moreover, S2157 did not significantly alter the expression of molecules facilitating CNS invasion of T-ALL cells such as CCR7 (4) and ITGA6 (ref. 5; Supplementary Table S4). These results suggest that therapeutic effects of S2157 on CNS leukemia are mainly direct and local, although the suppression of CNS invasion could be an additional mechanism of action. In summary, our findings provide a molecular basis and rationale for the inclusion of N-alkylated LSD1 inhibitors in treatment strategies for T-ALL, especially when complicated with or at high risk of CNS involvement.
Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest
No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.
Conception and design: Y. Furukawa
Acquisition of data (provided animals, acquired and managed patients, provided facilities, etc.): S. Saito, J. Kikuchi, D. Koyama, H. Koyama, N. Osada, Y. Kuroda
Analysis and interpretation of data (e.g., statistical analysis, biostatistics, computational analysis): J. Kikuchi, D. Koyama, H. Koyama, Y. Kuroda, Y. Furukawa
Writing, review, and/or revision of the manuscript: J. Kikuchi, Y. Furukawa
Administrative, technical, or material support (i.e., reporting or organizing data, constructing databases): S. Sato, K. Akahane, T. Inukai, T. Umehara, Y. Furukawa
Study supervision: Y. Furukawa
The authors are grateful to Akiko Yonekura, Mayuka Shiino, and Michiko Ogawa for their technical assistance, Dr. Takehiro Fukami (RIKEN) for his support in chemical and pharmacokinetic analyses, and Tokyo Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. (TCI) for chemical synthesis.
This work was supported in part by the High-Tech Research Center Project for Private Universities: Matching Fund Subsidy from MEXT, a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from JSPS, Research Grants from the Japan Leukemia Research Fund, Yasuda Memorial Cancer Foundation, Takeda Science Foundation, Novartis Foundation (to J. Kikuchi and Y. Furukawa), Mother and Child Health Foundation, Children's Cancer Association of Japan (to J. Kikuchi), and the RIKEN Program for Drug Discovery and Medical Technology Platforms (to T. Umehara). Y. Furukawa received the Kobayashi Foundation Cancer Research Award.