Mitotic perturbation is a key mechanism of action of decitabine in myeloid tumor treatment

Cell Rep. 2023 Sep 26;42(9):113098. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113098. Epub 2023 Sep 14.


Decitabine (DAC) is clinically used to treat myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Our genome-wide CRISPR-dCas9 activation screen using MDS-derived AML cells indicates that mitotic regulation is critical for DAC resistance. DAC strongly induces abnormal mitosis (abscission failure or tripolar mitosis) in human myeloid tumors at clinical concentrations, especially in those with TP53 mutations or antecedent hematological disorders. This DAC-induced mitotic disruption and apoptosis are significantly attenuated in DNMT1-depleted cells. In contrast, overexpression of Dnmt1, but not the catalytically inactive mutant, enhances DAC-induced mitotic defects in myeloid tumors. We also demonstrate that DAC-induced mitotic disruption is enhanced by pharmacological inhibition of the ATR-CLSPN-CHK1 pathway. These data challenge the current assumption that DAC inhibits leukemogenesis through DNMT1 inhibition and subsequent DNA hypomethylation and highlight the potent activity of DAC to disrupt mitosis through aberrant DNMT1-DNA covalent bonds.

Keywords: ATR; CHK1; CP: Cancer; DNA hypomethylating agent; DNA methylation; DNMT1; HMA; cholesterol; decitabine; mitosis; mitotic catastrophe.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Azacitidine* / pharmacology
  • Azacitidine* / therapeutic use
  • DNA
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Decitabine / pharmacology
  • Decitabine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / pathology


  • Decitabine
  • Azacitidine
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • DNA
  • CLSPN protein, human
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing