Key Points

  • AMPK deficiency decreases acetyl-CoA, histone acetylation, and BRD4 recruitment to chromatin in AML stem cells.

  • Inhibition of AMPK synergizes with BET inhibition to suppress AML.

Altered metabolism fuels two hallmark properties of cancer cells, unlimited proliferation and differentiation blockade. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a master regulator of bioenergetics crucial for glucose metabolism in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and its inhibition delays leukemogenesis, but whether the metabolic function of AMPK alters the AML epigenome remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that AMPK maintains the epigenome of MLL-rearranged AML by linking acetyl-CoA homeostasis to BET protein recruitment to chromatin. AMPK deletion reduced acetyl-CoA and histone acetylation, displacing BET proteins from chromatin in leukemia-initiating cells. In both mouse and patient-derived xenograft AML models, treating with AMPK and BET inhibitors synergistically suppressed AML. Our results provide a therapeutic rationale to target AMPK and BET for AML therapy.

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