Key Points

  • High-resolution proteomics identifies characteristic and targetable pathways active in functionally validated LSCs compared to healthy HSPCs

  • Changes in metabolic pathways are primarily evident at protein and not at transcript level highlighting the strength of proteomic analyses

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is characterized by the accumulation of clonal myeloid blast cells unable to differentiate into mature leukocytes. Chemotherapy induces remission in the majority of patients, but relapse rates are high and lead to poor clinical outcomes. Since this is primarily caused by chemotherapy-resistant leukemic stem cells (LSCs), it is essential to eradicate LSCs to improve patient survival. LSCs have predominantly been studied at the transcript level, thus lacking information about post-transcriptionally regulated genes and associated networks. Here we extend our previous report on LSC proteomes to healthy age-matched hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) and correlate the proteomes to the corresponding transcriptomes. By comparing LSCs to leukemic blasts and healthy HSPCs, we validate candidate LSC markers and highlight novel and potentially targetable proteins that are absent or only lowly expressed in HSPCs. In addition, our data provide strong evidence that LSCs harbor a characteristic energy metabolism, adhesion molecule composition, as well as RNA processing properties. Furthermore, correlating proteome and transcript data of the same individual samples highlights the strength of proteome analyses, which are particularly potent in detecting alterations in metabolic pathways. In summary, our study provides a comprehensive proteomic and transcriptomic characterization of functionally validated LSCs, blasts and healthy HSPCs, representing a valuable resource helping to design LSC-directed therapies.

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