Gatekeeper function of the RUNX1 transcription factor in acute leukemia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The RUNX1 gene encodes the alpha subunit of the core binding factor (CBF) and is a common target of genetic mutations in acute leukemia. We propose that RUNX1 is a gatekeeper gene, the disruption of which leads to the exodus of a subset of hematopoietic progenitors with increased self-renewal potential from the normal environmental controls of homeostasis. This pool of "escaped" cells is the target of secondary mutations, accumulating over time to induce the aggressive manifestation of acute leukemia. Evidence from patient and animal studies supports the concept that RUNX1 Mutations are the initiating event in different leukemia subtypes, but also suggests that diverse mechanisms are used to subvert RUNX1 function. One common result is the inhibition of differentiation-but its effect impinges on different lineages and stages of differentiation, depending on the mutation or fusion partner. A number of different approaches have led to the identification of secondary events that lead to the overt acute phase; however, the majority is unknown. Finally, the concept of the "leukemia stern cell" and its therapeutic importance is discussed in light of the RUNX1 gatekeeper function.


  • Birte Niebuhr
  • Meike Fischer
  • Maike Taeger
  • Jörg Cammenga
  • Carol Stocking
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Hematology


  • self-renewal, differentiation, leukemia stem cell, core-binding factor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-218
JournalBlood Cells, Molecules & Diseases
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Hematology/Transplantation (013022014)