Cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) has a poorly understood etiology and no known cure. Using conditional knockout mice, we found that ablation of the genomic organizer special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 1 (Satb1) caused malignant transformation of mature, skin-homing, Notch-activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells into progressively fatal lymphoma. Mechanistically, Satb1 restrained Stat5 phosphorylation and the expression of skin-homing chemokine receptors in mature T cells. Notably, methyltransferase-dependent epigenetic repression of SATB1 was universally found in human Sézary syndrome, but not in other peripheral T cell malignancies. H3K27 and H3K9 trimethylation occluded the SATB1 promoter in Sézary cells, while inhibition of SUV39H1/2 methyltransferases (unlike EZH2 inhibition) restored protective SATB1 expression and selectively abrogated the growth of primary Sézary cells more effectively than romidepsin. Therefore, inhibition of methyltransferases that silence SATB1 could address an unmet need for patients with mycosis fungoides/Sézary syndrome, a set of incurable diseases.
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