Key Points

  • PHF19 is positively correlated with poorer clinic outcomes of MM and essential for MM growth in vitro and in vivo.

  • PHF19 potentiates tumorigenicity via PRC2 activation and H3K27me3 spreading, rendering sensitivity of MM cells to PRC2 inhibitors.


Dysregulation of polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) promotes oncogenesis partly through its enzymatic function for inducing trimethylation of histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3). However, it remains to be determined how PRC2 activity is regulated in normal and diseased settings. We here report a PRC2-associated cofactor, PHD finger protein 19 (PHF19; also known as polycomb-like 3), as a crucial mediator of tumorigenicity in multiple myeloma (MM). Overexpression and/or genomic amplification of PHF19 is found associated with malignant progression of MM and plasma cell leukemia, correlating to worse treatment outcomes. Using various MM models, we demonstrated a critical requirement of PHF19 for tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, PHF19-mediated oncogenic effect relies on its PRC2-interacting and chromatin-binding functions. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing profiling showed a critical role for PHF19 in maintaining the H3K27me3 landscape. PHF19 depletion led to loss of broad H3K27me3 domains, possibly due to impaired H3K27me3 spreading from cytosine guanine dinucleotide islands, which is reminiscent to the reported effect of an “onco”-histone mutation, H3K27 to methionine (H3K27M). RNA-sequencing–based transcriptome profiling in MM lines also demonstrated a requirement of PHF19 for optimal silencing of PRC2 targets, which include cell cycle inhibitors and interferon-JAK-STAT signaling genes critically involved in tumor suppression. Correlation studies using patient sample data sets further support a clinical relevance of the PHF19-regulated pathways. Lastly, we show that MM cells are generally sensitive to PRC2 inhibitors. Collectively, this study demonstrates that PHF19 promotes MM tumorigenesis through enhancing H3K27me3 deposition and PRC2’s gene-regulatory functions, lending support for PRC2 blockade as a means for MM therapeutics.

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