Contrasting requirements during disease evolution identify EZH2 as a therapeutic target in AML

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Faisal Basheer
  • George Giotopoulos
  • Eshwar Meduri
  • Haiyang Yun
  • Milena Mazan
  • Daniel Sasca
  • Paolo Gallipoli
  • Ludovica Marando
  • Malgorzata Gozdecka
  • Ryan Asby
  • Olivia Sheppard
  • Monika Dudek
  • Lars Bullinger
  • Hartmut Döhner
  • Richard Dillon
  • Oliver Ottmann
  • Alan Burnett
  • Nigel Russell
  • Elli Papaemmanuil
  • Robert Hills
  • Peter Campbell
  • George S Vassiliou
  • Brian J P Huntly

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Cambridge
  • King's College London
  • Cardiff University
  • Isle of Arran, UK.
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • University of Oxford
  • Nottingham City Hospital, Nottingham, United Kingdom.
  • University Hospital of Ulm
  • Charité University Hospital of Berlin
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • European Bioinformatics Institute


Epigenetic regulators, such as EZH2, are frequently mutated in cancer, and loss-of-function EZH2 mutations are common in myeloid malignancies. We have examined the importance of cellular context for Ezh2 loss during the evolution of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), where we observed stage-specific and diametrically opposite functions for Ezh2 at the early and late stages of disease. During disease maintenance, WT Ezh2 exerts an oncogenic function that may be therapeutically targeted. In contrast, Ezh2 acts as a tumor suppressor during AML induction. Transcriptional analysis explains this apparent paradox, demonstrating that loss of Ezh2 derepresses different expression programs during disease induction and maintenance. During disease induction, Ezh2 loss derepresses a subset of bivalent promoters that resolve toward gene activation, inducing a feto-oncogenic program that includes genes such as Plag1, whose overexpression phenocopies Ezh2 loss to accelerate AML induction in mouse models. Our data highlight the importance of cellular context and disease phase for the function of Ezh2 and its potential therapeutic implications.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-981
Number of pages16
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date19 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019