Professional Education

  • Diplome de Medecin, Universidad De La Laguna (2004)
  • Doctor of Medicine, Albert Ludwigs Universitat Freiburg (2011)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • The HDAC class I-specific inhibitor entinostat (MS-275) effectively relieves epigenetic silencing of the LAT2 gene mediated by AML1/ETO ONCOGENE Duque-Afonso, J., Yalcin, A., Berg, T., Abdelkarim, M., Heidenreich, O., Luebbert, M. 2011; 30 (27): 3062-3072


    The chromosomal translocation (8;21) fuses the hematopoietic transcription factor AML1 (RUNX1) with ETO (RUNX1T1, MTG8), resulting in the leukemia-specific chimeric protein AML1/ETO. This fusion protein has been implicated in epigenetic silencing, recruiting histone deacetylases (HDACs) and DNA methyltransferases to target promoters. Previously, we have identified a novel in vivo AML1/ETO target gene, LAT2 (NTAL/LAB/WBSCR5), which is involved in Fc?R I, c-Kit, B-cell and T-cell receptor signalling. We have now addressed the molecular mechanisms of AML1/ETO-mediated LAT2 repression. In Kasumi-1 cells, where AML1/ETO bound to the LAT2 gene, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated AML1/ETO depletion caused upregulation of LAT2, suggesting a possible direct mechanism of repression. Expression of AML1/ETO was associated with a decrease in acetylation of histones H3, H3K9 and H4, and an increase in H3K9 and H3K27 trimethylation. The class I-specific HDAC inhibitors entinostat (MS-275) and mocetinostat (MGCD0103) induced LAT2 expression specifically in AML1/ETO-expressing cells, resulting in induction of several activating histone marks on the LAT2 gene, including trimethylation of histone H3K4. The combination of entinostat and decitabine increased acetylation of histones H3 and H4, as well as LAT2 mRNA expression, in an at least additive fashion. In conclusion, several repressive histone modifications mark the LAT2 gene in the presence of AML1/ETO, and LAT2 gene derepression is achieved by pharmacological inhibition of HDACs.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/onc.2011.32

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292510100006

    View details for PubMedID 21577204

  • Regulation of the adaptor molecule LAT2, an in vivo target gene of AML1/ETO (RUNX1/RUNX1T1), during myeloid differentiation BRITISH JOURNAL OF HAEMATOLOGY Duque-Afonso, J., Solari, L., Essig, A., Berg, T., Pahl, H. L., Luebbert, M. 2011; 153 (5): 612-622


    The leukaemia-specific fusion oncoprotein RUNX1/RUNX1T1 (AML1/ETO), resulting from the chromosomal translocation (8;21) in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), imposes a striking genotype-phenotype relationship upon this distinct subtype of AML, which is mediated by multiple, co-ordinate downstream effects induced by this chimeric transcription factor. We previously identified the LAT2 gene, encoding the adaptor molecule LAT2 (NTAL, LAB), which is phosphorylated by KIT and has a role in mast cell and B-cell activation, as a target of the repressor activity of RUNX1/RUNX1T1. These results were confirmed and extended by demonstrating downregulation of the LAT2 protein in response to conditional RUNX1/RUNX1T1 expression, and its absence in primary AML with the t(8;21). In contrast, in a cohort of 43 AML patients, higher levels of LAT2 were associated with myelomonocytic features. Differentiation of HL-60 and NB4 cells towards granulocytes by all trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) resulted in downregulation of LAT2; conversely, it was upregulated during phorbol ester-induced monocytic differentiation of HL-60 cells. Forced expression of LAT2 in Kasumi-1 cells resulted in a striking block of ATRA- and phorbol ester-induced differentiation, implicating disturbances of the graded expression of this adaptor molecule in the maturation block of myeloid leukaemia cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2011.08586.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000290450100007

    View details for PubMedID 21488857

  • The DNA demethylating agent 5-aza-2 '-deoxycytidine induces expression of NY-ESO-1 and other cancer/testis antigens in myeloid leukemia cells LEUKEMIA RESEARCH Almstedt, M., Blagitko-Dorfs, N., Duque-Afonso, J., Karbach, J., Pfeifer, D., Jaeger, E., Luebbert, M. 2010; 34 (7): 899-905


    Azanucleoside DNA-hypomethylating agents have remarkable clinical activity in myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), particularly at low, non-cytotoxic doses favoring hypomethylation over cytotoxicity. Cancer/testis antigens (CTAs) encoding immunogenic proteins are not expressed in almost all normal tissues and many tumor types, but are consistently derepressed by epigenetically active agents in various cancer cell lines. Since the expression of CTA genes is usually very low or absent in myeloid leukemias, we treated various AML cell lines with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) and quantified mRNA expression of the CTAs NY-ESO-1, MAGEA1, MAGEA3 and MAGEB2. Consistent time- and dose-dependent reactivation of all 4 CTA genes was observed, with maximum mRNA levels 72-144h after treatment start. As determined by RNA microarray analyses, numerous other CTA genes (all located on the X-chromosome) were also derepressed in a time-dependent fashion by DAC. NY-ESO-1 derepression was confirmed at the protein level. By Elispot and chromium release assays we showed that the de novo expressed NY-ESO-1 protein was naturally processed and presented in a time- and dose-dependent fashion up to 8 days after the start of DAC treatment, and converted the cell lines susceptible to antigen-specific recognition by CD8+ T-cell clones. In conclusion, NY-ESO-1 and numerous other CTAs localized on the X-chromosome are readily and transiently derepressed in AML cell lines treated with DAC. The susceptibility of DAC-treated AML cell lines to antigen-specific T-cell recognition has clear implications for future clinical trials combining DAC and specific immunotherapy in AML.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.leukres.2010.02.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277836300015

    View details for PubMedID 20381863

  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Induce a Very Broad, Pleiotropic Anticancer Drug Resistance Phenotype in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Cells by Modulation of Multiple ABC Transporter Genes CLINICAL CANCER RESEARCH Hauswald, S., Duque-Afonso, J., Wagner, M. M., Schertl, F. M., Luebbert, M., Peschel, C., Keller, U., Licht, T. 2009; 15 (11): 3705-3715


    Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are being studied in clinical trials with the aim to induce cellular differentiation, growth arrest, and apoptosis of tumor cells. Recent reports suggest that the multidrug resistance-1 (MDR1) gene is regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. To investigate whether additional drug transporters are regulated by HDACi and how this affects cytotoxicity, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells were examined.AML cells were cultured in the presence of phenylbutyrate, valproate, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, or trichostatin A and analyzed for drug transporter expression and function as well as sensitivity to anticancer drugs.MDR1, breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP), and multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRP) 7 and 8 were induced in a dose- and time-dependent manner as shown by semiquantitative PCR. The pattern of gene induction was cell line specific. Phenylbutyrate induced P-glycoprotein and BCRP expression and the efflux of drugs as determined with labeled substrates. KG-1a cells treated with phenylbutyrate developed resistance to daunorubicin, mitoxantrone, etoposide, vinblastine, paclitaxel, topotecan, gemcitabine, and 5-fluorouracil; as a result drug-induced apoptosis was impaired. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed the hyperacetylation of histone proteins in the promoter regions of MDR1, BCRP, and MRP8 on valproate treatment. Furthermore, an alternative MRP8 promoter was induced by HDACi treatment.Exposure of AML cells to HDACi induces a drug resistance phenotype broader than the "classic multidrug resistance," which might negatively affect treatment effectiveness.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2048

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266659000009

    View details for PubMedID 19458058

  • Complementing mutations in core binding factor leukemias: from mouse models to clinical applications ONCOGENE Mueller, A., Duque, J., Shizuru, J. A., Luebbert, M. 2008; 27 (44): 5759-5773


    A great proportion of acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) display cytogenetic abnormalities including chromosomal aberrations and/or submicroscopic mutations. These abnormalities significantly influence the prognosis of the disease. Hence, a thorough genetic work-up is an essential constituent of standard diagnostic procedures. Core binding factor (CBF) leukemias denote AMLs with chromosomal aberrations disrupting one of the CBF transcription factor genes; the most common examples are translocation t(8;21) and inversion inv(16), which result in the generation of the AML1-ETO and CBFbeta-MYH11 fusion proteins, respectively. However, in murine models, these alterations alone do not suffice to generate full-blown leukemia, but rather, complementary events are required. In fact, a substantial proportion of primary CBF leukemias display additional activating mutations, mostly of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) c-KIT. The awareness of the impact and prognostic relevance of these 'second hits' is increasing with a wider range of mutations tested in clinical trials. Furthermore, novel agents targeting RTKs are emanating rapidly and entering therapeutic regimens. Here, we present a concise review on complementing mutations in CBF leukemias including pathophysiology, mouse models, and clinical implications.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/onc.2008.196

    View details for Web of Science ID 000259722400001

    View details for PubMedID 18604246

  • Two cell lines of t(8;21) acute myeloid leukemia with activating KIT exon 17 mutation: models for the 'second hit' hypothesis LEUKEMIA Becker, H., Pfeifer, D., Afonso, J. D., Nimer, S. D., Veelken, H., Schwabe, M., Luebbert, M. 2008; 22 (9): 1792-1794

    View details for DOI 10.1038/leu.2008.61

    View details for Web of Science ID 000259066900022

    View details for PubMedID 18385756

  • XXIII International Association for Comparative Research on Leukemia and Related Diseases Symposium: From molecular pathogenesis to targeted therapy in leukemia and solid tumors CANCER RESEARCH Hackanson, B., Becker, H., Berg, T., Binder, M., Dierks, C., Duque-Afonso, J., Lairmore, M. D., Schaefer, H. S., Schnitzler, M., Zeiser, R., Martens, U., Mertelsmann, R., Luebbert, M. 2008; 68 (14): 5512-5518
  • Inhibitors of DNA methylation and histone deacetylation independently relieve AML1/ETO-mediated lysozyme repression JOURNAL OF LEUKOCYTE BIOLOGY Claus, R., Fliegauf, M., Stock, M., Duque, J. A., Kolanczyk, M., Luebbert, M. 2006; 80 (6): 1462-1472


    The human lysozyme (LZM) gene is highly methylated in LZM-nonexpressor immature myeloid and in nonmyeloid cells and unmethylated only in LZM-expressing cells. Extended methylation analyses of the CpG-poor 5' flanking region and of the exon 4 CpG island (both containing Alu elements) of the LZM gene were now performed. Marked demethylation was noted after treatment of AML1/ETO-positive Kasumi-1 cells with the DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitor 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-azaCdR), not associated with cellular differentiation. LZM mRNA in Kasumi-1, but not in several AML1/ETO-negative myeloid cell lines, was specifically and independently up-regulated upon treatment with 5-azaCdR and, to a lesser extent, with the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). Increased chromatin accessibility within the 5' LZM gene was observed concomitantly with 5-azaCdR-induced demethylation. In contrast, TSA treatment had no effect on chromatin accessibility, but, as shown by chromatin immunoprecipitation, resulted in increased acetylation of histones H3 and H4. Repression of LZM transcription is mediated by conditional AML1/ETO expression in an inducible cell line model (U-937), and is reversed by siRNA "knock-down" of AML1/ETO in Kasumi-1 cells (Dunne et al., Oncogene 25: 2006). Antagonization of LZM repression following conditional expression of AML1/ETO was achieved by TSA. In conclusion, we demonstrate complex interactions between DNA methylation and histone modifications in mediating LZM repression, which implicate AML1/ETO as one component involved in local chromatin remodeling. Interestingly, inhibitors of DNMTs and HDACs independently relieve repression of this CpG-poor gene in AML1/ETO-positive cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1189/jlb.0106005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000242484100031

    View details for PubMedID 17000900

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