Identification and characterization of RBM12 as a novel regulator of fetal hemoglobin expression.


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Wakabayashi A, Kihiu M, Sharma M, Thrasher AJ, Saari MS, Quesnel-Vallières M, Abdulmalik O, Peslak SA, Khandros E, Keller CA, Giardine BM, Barash Y, Hardison RC, Shi J, Blobel GA.


The fetal-to-adult hemoglobin transition is clinically relevant because reactivation of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) significantly reduces morbidity and mortality associated with sickle cell disease (SCD) and β-thalassemia. Most studies on the developmental regulation of the globin genes, including genome-wide genetics screens, have focused on DNA binding proteins, including BCL11A and ZBTB7A/LRF and their cofactors. Our understanding of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in this process is much more limited. Two RBPs, LIN28B and IGF2BP1, are known posttranscriptional regulators of HbF production, but a global view of RBPs is still lacking. Here, we carried out a CRISPR/Cas9-based screen targeting RBPs harboring RNA methyltransferase and/or RNA recognition motif (RRM) domains and identified RNA binding motif 12 (RBM12) as a novel HbF suppressor. Depletion of RBM12 induced HbF expression and attenuated cell sickling in erythroid cells derived from patients with SCD with minimal detrimental effects on cell maturation. Transcriptome and proteome profiling revealed that RBM12 functions independently of major known HbF regulators. Enhanced cross-linking and immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing revealed strong preferential binding of RBM12 to 5' untranslated regions of transcripts, narrowing down the mechanism of RBM12 action. Notably, we pinpointed the first of 5 RRM domains as essential, and, in conjunction with a linker domain, sufficient for RBM12-mediated HbF regulation. Our characterization of RBM12 as a negative regulator of HbF points to an additional regulatory layer of the fetal-to-adult hemoglobin switch and broadens the pool of potential therapeutic targets for SCD and β-thalassemia.

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CD34+ cells were supplied by the Cell Procurement Core at the Fred Hutchinson Center of Excellence in Hematology U54 DK106829.

Publication: 2023-01-17