MYC deregulates TET1 and TET2 expression to control global DNA (hydroxy)methylation and gene expression to maintain a neoplastic phenotype in T-ALL

Candace J. Poole, Atul Lodh, Jeong Hyeon Choi, Jan Van Riggelen

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Background: While aberrant DNA methylation is a characteristic feature of tumor cells, our knowledge of how these DNA methylation patterns are established and maintained is limited. DNA methyltransferases and ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenases (TETs) function has been found altered in a variety of cancer types. Results: Here, we report that in T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) the MYC oncogene controls the expression of TET1 and TET2 to maintain 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) patterns, which is associated with tumor cell-specific gene expression. We found that cellular senescence and tumor regression upon MYC inactivation in T-ALL was associated with genome-wide changes in 5mC and 5hmC patterns. Correlating with the changes in DNA (hydroxy)methylation, we found that T-ALL overexpress TET1, while suppressing TET2 in a MYC-dependent fashion. Consequently, MYC inactivation led to an inverse expression pattern, decreasing TET1, while increasing TET2 levels. Knockdown of TET1 or ectopic expression of TET2 in T-ALL was associated with genome-wide changes in 5mC and 5hmC enrichment and decreased cell proliferation, suggesting a tumor promoting function of TET1, and a tumor suppressing role for TET2. Among the genes and pathways controlled by TET1, we found ribosomal biogenesis and translational control of protein synthesis highly enriched. Conclusions: Our finding that MYC directly deregulates the expression of TET1 and TET2 in T-ALL provides novel evidence that MYC controls DNA (hydroxy)methylation in a genome-wide fashion. It reveals a coordinated interplay between the components of the DNA (de)methylating machinery that contribute to MYC-driven tumor maintenance, highlighting the potential of specific TET enzymes for therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalEpigenetics and Chromatin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2 2019



  • DNA hydroxymethylation
  • DNA methylation
  • Leukemia/lymphoma
  • MYC
  • TET1
  • TET2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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