Targeting HDAC3, a new partner protein of AKT in the reversal of chemoresistance in acute myeloid leukemia via DNA damage response

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Resistance to cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs remains as the major cause of treatment failure in acute myeloid leukemia. Histone deacetylases (HDAC) are important regulators to maintain chromatin structure and control DNA damage; nevertheless, how each HDAC regulates genome stability remains unclear, especially under genome stress conditions. Here, we identified a mechanism by which HDAC3 regulates DNA damage repair and mediates resistance to chemotherapy drugs. In addition to inducing DNA damage, chemotherapy drugs trigger upregulation of HDAC3 expression in leukemia cells. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we show that HDAC3 contributes to chemotherapy resistance by regulating the activation of AKT, a well-documented factor in drug resistance development. HDAC3 binds to AKT and deacetylates it at the site Lys20, thereby promoting the phosphorylation of AKT. Chemotherapy drug exposure enhances the interaction between HDAC3 and AKT, resulting in decrease in AKT acetylation and increase in AKT phosphorylation. Whereas HDAC3 depletion or inhibition abrogates these responses and meanwhile sensitizes leukemia cells to chemotoxicity-induced apoptosis. Importantly, in vivo HDAC3 suppression reduces leukemia progression and sensitizes MLL-AF9+ leukemia to chemotherapy. Our findings suggest that combination therapy with HDAC3 inhibitor and genotoxic agents may constitute a successful strategy for overcoming chemotherapy resistance.

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