High-mobility group A (HMGA) proteins are non-histone nuclear proteins that bind DNA and several transcription factors. They are involved in the regulation of chromatin structure and function. HMGA protein expression is low in normal adult tissues, but abundant during embryonic development and in several human tumours. Rearrangements of the HMGA genes have been frequently detected in human benign tumours of mesenchymal origin, e.g. lipomas, lung hamartomas and uterine leiomiomas. HMGA proteins have been implicated in the control of cell growth and differentiation of the pre-adipocytic cell line 3T3-L1. In an attempt to better understand the role of HMGA1 proteins in haematological neoplasias and in the differentiation of haematopietic cells, we have investigated their expression in human leukaemias and in leukaemic cell lines induced to terminal differentiation. Here we report HMGA1 overexpression in most fresh human leukaemias of different origin and in several leukaemic cell lines. Moreover, differentiation of three cell lines towards the megakaryocytic phenotype was associated with HMGA1 protein induction, whereas induction of erythroid and monocytic differentiation generally resulted in reduced HMGA1 expression.

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