N6-methyladenosine (m6A), the most prevalent internal modification in eukaryotic messenger RNAs (mRNAs), plays critical roles in many bioprocesses. However, its functions in normal and malignant hematopoiesis remain elusive. Here, we report that METTL14, a key component of the m6A methyltransferase complex, is highly expressed in normal hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells carrying t(11q23), t(15;17), or t(8;21) and is downregulated during myeloid differentiation. Silencing of METTL14 promotes terminal myeloid differentiation of normal HSPCs and AML cells and inhibits AML cell survival/proliferation. METTL14 is required for development and maintenance of AML and self-renewal of leukemia stem/initiation cells (LSCs/LICs). Mechanistically, METTL14 exerts its oncogenic role by regulating its mRNA targets (e.g., MYB and MYC) through m6A modification, while the protein itself is negatively regulated by SPI1. Collectively, our results reveal the SPI1-METTL14-MYB/MYC signaling axis in myelopoiesis and leukemogenesis and highlight the critical roles of METTL14 and m6A modification in normal and malignant hematopoiesis.
Keywords: HSC; HSPCs; LSCs/LICs; METTL14; MYB; MYC; N(6)-methyladenosine modification; SPI1; acute myeloid leukemia; myeloid differentiation block.
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