Targeted disruption of the interaction between WD-40 repeat protein 5 (WDR5) and Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL)/SET1 Family Proteins Specifically Inhibits MLL1 and SETd1A Methyltransferase Complexes

Nilda L. Alicea-Velázquez, Stephen A. Shinsky, Daniel M. Loh, Jeong Heon Lee, David G. Skalnik, Michael S. Cosgrove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


MLL1 belongs to the SET1 family of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) methyltransferases, composed of MLL1-4 and SETd1A/B. MLL1 translocations are present in acute leukemias, and mutations in several family members are associated with cancer and developmental disorders. MLL1 associates with a subcomplex containing WDR5, RbBP5, ASH2L, and DPY-30 (WRAD), forming the MLL1 core complex required for H3K4 mono- and dimethylation and transcriptional activation. Core complex assembly requires interaction of WDR5 with the MLL1 Win (WDR5 interaction) motif, which is conserved across the SET1 family. Agents that mimic the SET1 family Win motif inhibit the MLL1 core complex and have become an attractive approach for targetingMLL1 in cancers. Like MLL1, other SET1 family members interact with WRAD, but the roles of the Win motif in complex assembly and enzymatic activity remain unexplored. Here, we show that the Win motif is necessary for interaction of WDR5 with all members of the human SET1 family. Mutation of the Win motif-WDR5 interface severely disrupts assembly and activity of MLL1 and SETd1A complexes but only modestly disrupts MLL2/4 and SETd1B complexes without significantly altering enzymatic activity in vitro. Notably, in the absence of WDR5, MLL3 interacts with RAD and shows enhanced activity. To further probe the role of the Win motif-WDR5 interaction, we designed a peptidomimetic that binds WDR5 (Kd ∼3 nM) and selectively inhibits activity of MLL1 and SETd1A core complexes within the SET1 family. Our results reveal that SET1 family complexes with the weakest Win motif-WDR5 interaction are more susceptible to Win motif-based inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22357-22372
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 21 2016
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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