Nonselective inhibition of the epigenetic transcriptional regulator BET induces marked lymphoid and hematopoietic toxicity in mice

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Bromo and extra terminal (BET) proteins (BRD2, BRD3, BRD4 and BRDT) are epigenetic transcriptional regulators required for efficient expression of growth promoting, cell cycle progression and antiapoptotic genes. Through their bromodomain, these proteins bind to acetylated lysine residues of histones and are recruited to transcriptionally active chromatin. Inhibition of the BET-histone interaction provides a tractable therapeutic strategy to treat diseases that may have epigenetic dysregulation. JQ1 is a small molecule that blocks BET interaction with histones. It has been shown to decrease proliferation of patient-derived multiple myeloma in vitro and to decrease tumor burden in vivo in xenograft mouse models. While targeting BET appears to be a viable and efficacious approach, the nonclinical safety profile of BET inhibition remains to be well-defined. We report that mice dosed with JQ1 at efficacious exposures demonstrate dose-dependent decreases in their lymphoid and immune cell compartments. At higher doses, JQ1 was not tolerated and due to induction of significant body weight loss led to early euthanasia. Flow cytometry analysis of lymphoid tissues showed a decrease in both B- and T-lymphocytes with a concomitant decrease in peripheral white blood cells that was confirmed by hematology. Further investigation with the inactive enantiomer of JQ1 showed that these in vivo effects were on-target mediated and not elicited through secondary pharmacology due to chemical structure.

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