Rare preleukemic hematopoietic stem cells (pHSC) harboring only the initiating mutations can be detected at the time of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) diagnosis. pHSCs are the origin of leukemia and a potential reservoir for relapse. Using primary human samples and gene editing to model isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) mutant pHSCs, we show epigenetic, transcriptional, and metabolic differences between pHSCs and healthy hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). We confirm that IDH1-driven clonal hematopoiesis is associated with cytopenia, suggesting an inherent defect to fully reconstitute hematopoiesis. Despite giving rise to multilineage engraftment, IDH1-mutant pHSCs exhibited reduced proliferation, blocked differentiation, downregulation of MHC class II genes, and reprogramming of oxidative phosphorylation metabolism. Critically, inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation resulted in the complete eradication of IDH1-mutant pHSCs but not IDH2-mutant pHSCs or wild-type HSCs. Our results indicate that IDH1-mutant preleukemic clones can be targeted with complex I inhibitors, offering a potential strategy to prevent the development and relapse of leukemia.


A high burden of pHSCs is associated with worse overall survival in AML. Using single-cell sequencing, metabolic assessment, and gene-edited human models, we find human pHSCs with IDH1 mutations to be metabolically vulnerable and sensitive to eradication by complex I inhibition.

See related commentary by Steensma, p. 83.

This article is featured in Selected Articles from This Issue, p. 80

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