Epigenetic Control of Infant B Cell Precursor Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

de Barrios, O; Parra, M


B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) is a highly aggressive malignancy, with poorer prognosis in infants than in adults. A genetic signature has been associated with this outcome but, remarkably, leukemogenesis is commonly triggered by genetic alterations of embryonic origin that involve the deregulation of chromatin remodelers. This review considers in depth how the alteration of epigenetic profiles (at DNA and histone levels) induces an aberrant phenotype in B lymphocyte progenitors by modulating the oncogenic drivers and tumor suppressors involved in key cancer hallmarks. DNA methylation patterns have been widely studied in BCP-ALL and their correlation with survival has been established. However, the effect of methylation on histone residues can be very different. For instance, methyltransferase KMT2A gene participates in chromosomal rearrangements with several partners, imposing an altered pattern of methylated H3K4 and H3K79 residues, enhancing oncogene promoter activation, and conferring a worse outcome on affected infants. In parallel, acetylation processes provide an additional layer of epigenetic regulation and can alter the chromatin conformation, enabling the binding of regulatory factors. Therefore, an integrated knowledge of all epigenetic disorders is essential to understand the molecular basis of BCP-ALL and to identify novel entry points that can be exploited to improve therapeutic options and disease prognosis.

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