Distinct functions of histone H3, lysine 4 methyltransferases in normal and malignant hematopoiesis

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Histone H3, lysine 4 (H3K4) methylation is one chromatin modification that defines distinct regulatory states of euchromatin. Mammals express six main histone methyltransferase (HMT) enzymes that modify H3K4 by monomethylation, dimethylation or trimethylation. Recent studies examine roles of some of these HMTs and their cofactors in hematopoiesis and leukemia. We discuss these emerging studies together with prior embryonic stem data, revealing how these enzymes function.

Recent findings

Murine models have been employed to conditionally or constitutively knockout HMTs (MLL1/KMT2A, MLL2/KMT2B, MLL3/KMT2C, MLL4/KMT2D, SETD1A/KMT2F and SETD1B/KMT2G) as well as specific domains or partners of these enzymes in normal hematopoietic populations and in the context of hematologic malignancies. These studies demonstrate that global or gene-specific changes in H3K4 modification levels can be attributed to particular enzymes in particular tissues.

Summary

Loss-of-function studies indicate largely nonoverlapping roles of the six H3K4 HMTs. These roles are not all necessarily due to differences in enzymatic activity and are not always accompanied by large global changes in histone modification. Both gain-of-function and loss-of-function mutations in hematologic malignancy are restricted to MLL1 and MLL3/MLL4, but emerging data indicate that SETD1A/SETD1B and MLL2 can be critical in leukemia as well.

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