Key Points

  • YBX1 is selectively required for maintaining myeloid leukemia cell survival but dispensable for normal hematopoiesis

  • YBX1 cooperating with IGF2BPs via its CSD domain, and stabilizes mRNA of BCL2 and MYC in an m6A-dependent manner

RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) are critical regulators of transcription and translation that are often dysregulated in cancer. Although RBPs are increasingly appreciated as being important for normal hematopoiesis and for hematological malignancies as oncogenes or tumor suppressors, essential RBPs for leukemia maintenance and survival remain elusive. Here we show that YBX1 is specifically required for maintaining myeloid leukemia cell survival in an m6A-dependent manner. We found that expression of YBX1 is significantly upregulated in myeloid leukemia cells, and deletion of YBX1 dramatically induces apoptosis, promotes differentiation, coupled with reduced proliferation and impaired leukemic capacity of primary human and mouse acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells in vitro and in vivo. Loss of YBX1 does not obviously affect normal hematopoiesis. Mechanistically, YBX1 interacts with IGF2BPs and stabilizes m6A-tagged RNA. Moreover, YBX1 deficiency dysregulates the expression of apoptosis-related genes, and promotes mRNA decay of MYC and BCL2 in an m6A-dependent manner, which contributes to the defective survival due to YBX1 deletion. Thus, our findings uncover a selective and critical role of YBX1 in maintaining myeloid leukemia survival that might provide a rationale for the therapeutic targeting of YBX1 in myeloid leukemia.

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