T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematopoietic neoplasm resulting from the malignant transformation of T-cell progenitors. While activating NOTCH1 mutations are the dominant genetic drivers of T-ALL, epigenetic dysfunction plays a central role in the pathology of T-ALL and can provide alternative mechanisms to oncogenesis in lieu of or in combination with genetic mutations. The histone demethylase enzyme KDM6A (UTX) is also recurrently mutated in T-ALL patients and functions as a tumor suppressor. However, its gene paralog, KDM6B (JMJD3), is never mutated and can be significantly overexpressed, suggesting it may be necessary for sustaining the disease. Here, we used mouse and human T-ALL models to show that KDM6B is required for T-ALL development and maintenance. Using NOTCH1 gain-of-function retroviral models, mouse cells genetically deficient for Kdm6b were unable to propagate T-ALL. Inactivating KDM6B in human T-ALL patient cells by CRISPR/Cas9 showed KDM6B-targeted cells were significantly outcompeted over time. The dependence of T-ALL cells on KDM6B was proportional to the oncogenic strength of NOTCH1 mutation, with KDM6B required to prevent stress-induced apoptosis from strong NOTCH1 signaling. These studies identify a crucial role for KDM6B in sustaining NOTCH1-driven T-ALL and implicate KDM6B as a novel therapeutic target in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-740
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


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