Deletion of the RNA-editing enzyme ADAR1 causes regression of established chronic myelogenous leukemia in mice


  • R.A.S. wrote the manuscript and participated in project design and planning, data generation and analysis; Q.Y. and X.L. conducted mouse transplantation and phenotyping; M.G. conducted flow cytometry studies and analyzed data; J.H. participated in design and analysis; L.J.R. analyzed histology; D.E.L. conducted statistical analysis; C.S. contributed to data analysis; Q.W. conceived project, contributed to data and writing, obtained funding and coordinated the work.


Patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) respond well to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) of the Bcr-Abl oncoprotein. However, intolerance and resistance to these agents remains a challenge, and TKIs are unable to eradicate rare leukemia-initiating cells. Leukemia treatment would benefit from a better understanding of molecular signals that are necessary for the survival of leukemia-initiating cells but dispensable for normal hematopoietic stem cells. Leukemia-initiating cells in CML can arise from myeloid progenitor cells, a population that we have reported in normal hematopoiesis to depend on the RNA-editing enzyme adenosine deaminase acting on RNA-1 (ADAR1). We now report that Bcr-Abl transformed leukemic cells were ADAR1-dependent in a conditional ADAR1 knockout mouse model. ADAR1 deletion reversed leukocytosis and splenomegaly, and preferentially depleted primitive Lin-Sca+Kit+ (LSK) leukemic cells but not LSK cells lacking the leukemic oncoprotein. ADAR1 deletion ultimately normalized the peripheral white blood count, eliminating leukemic cells as assessed by PCR. These results uncover a novel requirement for ADAR1 in myeloid leukemic cells and indicate that ADAR1 may comprise a new molecular target for CML-directed therapeutics.