Epigenetic programs are dysregulated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and help enforce an oncogenic state of differentiation arrest. To identify key epigenetic regulators of AML cell fate, we performed a differentiation-focused CRISPR screen in AML cells. This screen identified the histone acetyltransferase KAT6A as a novel regulator of myeloid differentiation that drives critical leukemogenic gene-expression programs. We show that KAT6A is the initiator of a newly described transcriptional control module in which KAT6A-catalyzed promoter H3K9ac is bound by the acetyl-lysine reader ENL, which in turn cooperates with a network of chromatin factors to induce transcriptional elongation. Inhibition of KAT6A has strong anti-AML phenotypes in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that KAT6A small-molecule inhibitors could be of high therapeutic interest for mono-therapy or combinatorial differentiation-based treatment of AML.
Significance: AML is a poor-prognosis disease characterized by differentiation blockade. Through a cell-fate CRISPR screen, we identified KAT6A as a novel regulator of AML cell differentiation. Mechanistically, KAT6A cooperates with ENL in a "writer-reader" epigenetic transcriptional control module. These results uncover a new epigenetic dependency and therapeutic opportunity in AML. This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 587.
©2021 American Association for Cancer Research.