Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can display de novo or acquired resistance to cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C), a primary component of induction chemotherapy. To identify genes capable of independently imposing Ara-C resistance, we applied a genome-wide CRISPR library to human U937 cells and exposed to them to Ara-C. Interestingly, all drug resistant clones contained guide RNAs for DCK. To avoid DCK gene modification, gRNA resistant DCK cDNA was created by the introduction of silent mutations. The CRISPR screening was repeated using the gRNA resistant DCK, and loss of SLC29A was identified as also being capable of conveying Ara-C drug resistance. To determine if loss of Dck results in increased sensitivity to other drugs, we conducted a screen of 446 FDA approved drugs using two Dck-defective BXH-2 derived murine AML cell lines and their Ara-C sensitive parental lines. Both cell lines showed an increase in sensitivity to prednisolone. Guide RNA resistant cDNA rescue was a legitimate strategy and multiple DCK or SLC29A deficient human cell clones were established with one clone becoming prednisolone sensitive. Dck-defective leukemic cells may become prednisolone sensitive indicating prednisolone may be an effective adjuvant therapy in some cases of DCK-negative AML.
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