Chromosomal translocations involving chimeric fusions of the nucleoporin NUP98 protein have often been described in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). All the fusion proteins have an identical NUP98 N terminus, which contains the GLEBS motif for interaction with the mRNA export factor RAE1 and FG repeats that associate with the transcription factors HDAC1 and p300. It is virtually unknown whether these interaction partners affect leukemogenesis. We previously showed that RAE1 depletion caused aneuploidy, which enhanced tumorigenesis. We speculated that RAE1 may also be directly involved in NUP98 fusion-mediated leukemogenesis. We show here that RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown of NUP98 caused severe chromosome segregation defects and disrupted RAE1 but not HDAC1 expression and localization. Next, we performed rescue experiments to confirm that the RAE1-NUP98 complex orchestrates proper chromosome segregation. Interestingly, we found diverse behaviors of NUP98 and the leukemogenic fusion protein NUP98-HOXA9 throughout the cell cycle. Strikingly, in NUP98-HOXA9-transfected cells, RAE1 protein were reduced and mis-localized. Our cellular interpretations were further confirmed by NUP98-HOXA9 transgenic mice and the NUP98-HOXA9 AML patient. These data suggest that RAE1 orchestrates NUP98-mediated leukemogenesis and raise the possibility that targeting this negative feedback loop may provide a new strategy for the therapy of aggressive leukemias.
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