Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are thought to share several properties with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), including cell-cycle quiescence and a capacity for self-renewal. These features are hypothesized to underlie leukemic initiation, progression, and relapse, and they also complicate efforts to eradicate leukemia through therapeutic targeting of LSCs without adverse effects on HSCs. Here, we show that acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) with genomic rearrangements of the MLL gene contain a non-quiescent LSC population. Although human CD34(+)CD38(-) LSCs are generally highly quiescent, the C-type lectin CD93 is expressed on a subset of actively cycling, non-quiescent AML cells enriched for LSC activity. CD93 expression is functionally required for engraftment of primary human AML LSCs and leukemogenesis, and it regulates LSC self-renewal predominantly by silencing CDKN2B, a major tumor suppressor in AML. Thus, CD93 expression identifies a predominantly cycling, non-quiescent leukemia-initiating cell population in MLL-rearranged AML, providing opportunities for selective targeting and eradication of LSCs.
Keywords: CD93; CDKN2B; MLL; leukemia stem cells.
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