Functional characterization of the B-cell lymphoma/leukemia 11A (BCL11A) transcription factor



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Previously a t(2;14)(p13;q32) translocation was characterized in four unusually aggressive cases of B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). A gene located near the 2p13 breakpoint, B cell lymphoma/leukemia 11A (BCL11A), was shown to overexpress 3 isoforms (BCL11A-XL, L and S). Bcl11a knockout mice are severely impaired in B cell development at the early (pro-B) stage. I have further characterized BCL11A, focusing on the most abundant and evolutionarily conserved isoform, BCL11A-XL (XL). I demonstrated that XL resides in the nuclear matrix, is modified by ubiquitination, and is destabilized by B cell antigen receptor ligation. I identified domains within XL required for its localization within nuclear paraspeckles and for its transcriptional repression. While BCL11A-XL represses model promoters in non-B cells, its biologically relevant targets in B lymphocytes were unknown. I have identified and confirmed a number of XL targets which are both up- and down-regulated by XL over-expression in B cell lines. A number of these genes have been implicated in B cell function, including the V(D)J recombination activating (RAG) genes. Both RAG1 and RAG2 transcripts were up-regulated by XL. XL binds to the RAG1 promoter and RAG enhancer (Erag) in vivo as well as in vitro. Unexpectedly, XL repressed RAG1 transcription in non-B cells, indicating that additional B cell-specific factors are required for activation. Overexpression of XL in a V(D)J recombination-competent pre-B cell line markedly induced RAG expression and VDJ recombination. IRF4 and IRF8, transcription factors previously shown to be required for early B cell development, were also induced by BCL11A-XL. I propose that the early B cell progenitor block in Bcl11a knockout mice is, at least in part, a direct result of BCL11A-XL regulation of V(D)J recombination. Further experiments are required to establish how other XL targets promote B cell lineage development and how malignant transformation such as in B-CLL may corrupt BCL11A function.