Using a mouse model of human MLL-AF9 leukemia, we identified the lysine-specific demethylase KDM1A (LSD1 or AOF2) as an essential regulator of leukemia stem cell (LSC) potential. KDM1A acts at genomic loci bound by MLL-AF9 to sustain expression of the associated oncogenic program, thus preventing differentiation and apoptosis. In vitro and in vivo pharmacologic targeting of KDM1A using tranylcypromine analogs active in the nanomolar range phenocopied Kdm1a knockdown in both murine and primary human AML cells exhibiting MLL translocations. By contrast, the clonogenic and repopulating potential of normal hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells was spared. Our data establish KDM1A as a key effector of the differentiation block in MLL leukemia, which may be selectively targeted to therapeutic effect.
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