Acute Myeloid Leukemia iPSCs Reveal a Role for RUNX1 in the Maintenance of Human Leukemia Stem Cells

Cell Rep. 2020 Jun 2;31(9):107688. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107688.


Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are believed to have more distinct vulnerabilities than the bulk acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, but their rarity and the lack of universal markers for their prospective isolation hamper their study. We report that genetically clonal induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from an AML patient and characterized by exceptionally high engraftment potential give rise, upon hematopoietic differentiation, to a phenotypic hierarchy. Through fate-tracking experiments, xenotransplantation, and single-cell transcriptomics, we identify a cell fraction (iLSC) that can be isolated prospectively by means of adherent in vitro growth that resides on the apex of this hierarchy and fulfills the hallmark features of LSCs. Through integrative genomic studies of the iLSC transcriptome and chromatin landscape, we derive an LSC gene signature that predicts patient survival and uncovers a dependency of LSCs, across AML genotypes, on the RUNX1 transcription factor. These findings can empower efforts to therapeutically target AML LSCs.

Keywords: AML; LSC gene signature; Leukemia stem cells; RUNX1; iLSCs; iPSCs.