X chromosome aneuploidies have long been associated with human cancers, but causality has not been established. In mammals, X chromosome inactivation (XCI) is triggered by Xist RNA to equalize gene expression between the sexes. Here, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital delete Xist in the blood compartment of mice and demonstrate that mutant females develop a highly aggressive myeloproliferative neoplasm and myelodysplastic syndrome (mixed MPN/MDS) with 100% penetrance. Significant disease components include primary myelofibrosis, leukemia, histiocytic sarcoma, and vasculitis. Xist-deficient hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) show aberrant maturation and age-dependent loss. Reconstitution experiments indicate that MPN/MDS and myelofibrosis are of hematopoietic rather than stromal origin. They propose that Xist loss results in X reactivation and consequent genome-wide changes that lead to cancer, thereby causally linking the X chromosome to cancer in mice. Thus, Xist RNA not only is required to maintain XCI but also suppresses cancer in vivo.
- Yildirim E, Kirby JE, Brown DE, Mercier FE, Sadreyev RI, Scadden DT, Lee JT. (2013) Xist RNA is a potent suppressor of hematologic cancer in mice. Cell 152(4), 727-42. [abstract]