Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with MLL-rearrangement (MLL-r) comprises ~10% of all AML cases and portends poor outcomes. Much remains uncovered on how MLL-r AML drives leukemia development while preventing cells from normal myeloid differentiation. Here, we identified that transcription factor MEF2D is a super-enhancer-associated, highly expressed gene in MLL-r AML. Knockout of MEF2D profoundly impaired leukemia growth, induced myeloid differentiation, and delayed oncogenic progression in vivo. Mechanistically, MEF2D loss led to robust activation of a CEBPE-centered myeloid differentiation program in AML cells. Chromatin profiling revealed that MEF2D binds to and suppresses the chromatin accessibility of CEBPE cis-regulatory regions. In human acute leukemia samples, MEF2D expression showed a strong negative correlation with the expression of CEBPE. Depletion of CEBPE partially rescued the cell growth defect and myeloid cell differentiation induced by the loss of MEF2D. Lastly, we show that MEF2D is positively regulated by HOXA9, and downregulation of MEF2D is an important mechanism for DOT1L inhibitor-induced antileukemia effects. Collectively, our findings suggest that MEF2D plays a critical role in human MLL-r AML and uncover the MEF2D-CEBPE axis as a crucial transcriptional mechanism regulating leukemia cell self-renewal and differentiation block.
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