BET-bromodomain and EZH2 inhibitor–treated chronic GVHD mice have blunted germinal centers with distinct transcriptomes

Michael C. Zaiken, Ryan Flynn, Katelyn G. Paz, Stephanie Y. Rhee, Sujeong Jin, Fathima A. Mohamed, Asim Saha, Govindarajan Thangavelu, Paul M.C. Park, Matthew L. Hemming, Peter T. Sage, Arlene H. Sharpe, Michel DuPage, Jeffrey A. Bluestone, Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, Corey S. Cutler, John Koreth, Joseph H. Antin, Robert J. Soiffer, Jerome RitzLeo Luznik, Ivan Maillard, Geoffrey R. Hill, Kelli P.A. MacDonald, David H. Munn, Jonathan S. Serody, William J. Murphy, Leslie S. Kean, Yi Zhang, James E. Bradner, Jun Qi, Bruce R. Blazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Despite advances in the field, chronic graft-versus-host-disease (cGVHD) remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality following allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Because treatment options remain limited, we tested efficacy of anticancer, chromatin-modifying enzyme inhibitors in a clinically relevant murine model of cGVHD with bronchiolitis obliterans (BO). We observed that the novel enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) inhibitor JQ5 and the BET-bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 each improved pulmonary function; impaired the germinal center (GC) reaction, a prerequisite in cGVHD/BO pathogenesis; and JQ5 reduced EZH2-mediated H3K27me3 in donor T cells. Using conditional EZH2 knockout donor cells, we demonstrated that EZH2 is obligatory for the initiation of cGVHD/BO. In a sclerodermatous cGVHD model, JQ5 reduced the severity of cutaneous lesions. To determine how the 2 drugs could lead to the same physiological improvements while targeting unique epigenetic processes, we analyzed the transcriptomes of splenic GCB cells (GCBs) from transplanted mice treated with either drug. Multiple inflammatory and signaling pathways enriched in cGVHD/BO GCBs were reduced by each drug. GCBs from JQ5- but not JQ1-treated mice were enriched for proproliferative pathways also seen in GCBs from bone marrow-only transplanted mice, likely reflecting their underlying biology in the unperturbed state. In conjunction with in vivo data, these insights led us to conclude that epigenetic targeting of the GC is a viable clinical approach for the treatment of cGVHD, and that the EZH2 inhibitor JQ5 and the BET-bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 demonstrated clinical potential for EZH2i and BETi in patients with cGVHD/BO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2983-2997
Number of pages15
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 12 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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