Research in Dr. Huang’s laboratory focuses on genetic and epigenetic regulations of blood cell normal development and leukemia. The lab first demonstrated that AML1/CBFβ (a hetero-dimer transcription factor) and mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) protein (an enzyme which methylates lysine 4 of histone H3 tails), form a regulatory complex, which is important for normal blood development and acts as a tumor suppressor in leukemia. Mutations in either one of these three genes account for majority of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
The lab also found that the AML1/CBFβ/MLL complex regulates another transcription factor, PU.1, through the upstream regulatory region of the PU.1 gene and that the epigenetic changes of the histone tails occurring in the PU.1 regulatory region correlate with the PU.1 expression level. PU.1 expression level changes are critical for blood cell differentiation and dysregulation of PU.1 dosages leading to leukemia.
This research will provide new insight into the interplay between genetics and epigenetics in normal blood development and leukemia. It will also help to develop generic drugs for most of the AML, ALL and MDS, which will benefit the future clinical treatments.