To identify novel targets for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) therapy, we performed genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screening using AML cell lines, followed by a second screen in vivo. Here, we show that the mRNA decapping enzyme scavenger (DCPS) gene is essential for AML cell survival. The DCPS enzyme interacted with components of pre-mRNA metabolic pathways, including spliceosomes, as revealed by mass spectrometry. RG3039, a DCPS inhibitor originally developed to treat spinal muscular atrophy, exhibited anti-leukemic activity via inducing pre-mRNA mis-splicing. Humans harboring germline biallelic DCPS loss-of-function mutations do not exhibit aberrant hematologic phenotypes, indicating that DCPS is dispensable for human hematopoiesis. Our findings shed light on a pre-mRNA metabolic pathway and identify DCPS as a target for AML therapy. Yamauchi et al. perform in vitro and in vivo CRISPR-Cas9 genetic screening of p53 WT AML to identify potential therapeutic targets. They find that AML relies on the DCPS decapping enzyme, and a DCPS inhibitor shows anti-leukemia activity in tumor models without impacting normal hematopoiesis.
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