Site-specific methylation of 18S ribosomal RNA by SNORD42A is required for acute myeloid leukemia cell proliferation

Blood. 2020 Jun 4;135(23):2059-2070. doi: 10.1182/blood.2019004121.


Noncoding RNAs, including small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), play important roles in leukemogenesis, but the relevant mechanisms remain incompletely understood. We performed snoRNA-focused CRISPR-Cas9 knockout library screenings that targeted the entire snoRNAnome and corresponding host genes. The C/D box containing SNORD42A was identified as an essential modulator for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell survival and proliferation in multiple human leukemia cell lines. In line, SNORD42A was consistently expressed at higher levels in primary AML patient samples than in CD34+ progenitors, monocytes, and granulocytes. Functionally, knockout of SNORD42A reduced colony formation capability and inhibited proliferation. The SNORD42A acts as a C/D box snoRNA and directs 2'-O-methylation at uridine 116 of 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA). Deletion of SNORD42A decreased 18S-U116 2'-O-methylation, which was associated with a specific decrease in the translation of ribosomal proteins. In line, the cell size of SNORD42A deletion carrying leukemia cells was decreased. Taken together, these findings establish that high-level expression of SNORD42A with concomitant U116 18S rRNA 2'-O-methylation is essential for leukemia cell growth and survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar / genetics
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar / metabolism*
  • Ribosomal Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics
  • Ribosomal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar
  • Ribosomal Proteins