Hydroxycarbamide effects on DNA methylation and gene expression in myeloproliferative neoplasms

Stephania Contreras Castillo, Bertille Montibus, Azucena Rocha, Will Duke, Ferdinand von Meyenn, Donal McLornan, Claire Harrison, Ann Mullally, Reiner Schulz, Rebecca J. Oakey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Hydroxycarbamide (HC, hydroxyurea) is a cytoreductive drug inducing cell cycle blockade. However, emerging evidence suggests that HC plays a role in the modulation of transcription through the activity of transcription factors and DNA methylation. Examining the global mechanism of action of HC in the context of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), for which HC is the first-line treatment, will provide a better understanding of its molecular effects. To explore the effects of HC genome-wide, transcriptomic analyses were performed on two clinically relevant cell types at different stages of differentiation treated with HC in a murine MPN model. This study was replicated in MPN patients by profiling genome-wide gene expression and DNA methylation using patient blood samples collected longitudinally, before and following HC exposure. The effects of HC on the transcriptome were not only associated with cell cycle interruption but also with hematopoietic functions. Moreover, a group of genes were restored to normal expression levels in murine hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) following drug treatment, including the master regulator of hematopoiesis, RUNX1. In humans, HC significantly modifies DNA methylation levels in HSCs at several distal regulatory regions, which we show to be associated with SPI1 binding sites and at the SPI1 locus itself. We have identified novel targets of HC that include pivotal transcription factors involved in hematopoiesis, and for the first time we report abnormal methylation patterns in MPN patients at the master regulator gene SPI1 and its distal binding sites, which HC is able to restore to normal levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1394
Number of pages14
JournalGenome Research
Issue number8
Early online date9 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Hydroxycarbamide effects on DNA methylation and gene expression in myeloproliferative neoplasms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this