SAMHD1 is a biomarker for cytarabine response and a therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia
The nucleoside analog cytarabine (Ara-C) is an essential component of primary and salvage chemotherapy regimens for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). After cellular uptake, Ara-C is converted into its therapeutically active triphosphate metabolite, Ara-CTP, which exerts antileukemic effects, primarily by inhibiting DNA synthesis in proliferating cells'. Currently, a substantial fraction of patients with AML fail to respond effectively to Ara-C therapy, and reliable biomarkers for predicting the therapeutic response to Ara-C are lacking(2,3). SAMHD1 is a deoxynucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) triphosphohydrolase that cleaves physiological dNTPs into deoxyribonucleosides and inorganic triphosphate(4,5). Although it has been postulated that SAMHD1 sensitizes cancer cells to nucleoside-analog derivatives through the depletion of competing dNTPs6, we show here that SAMHD1 reduces Ara-C cytotoxicity in AML cells. Mechanistically, dGTP-activated SAMHD1 hydrolyzes Ara-CTP, which results in a drastic reduction of Ara-CTP in leukemic cells. Loss of SAMHD1 activity through genetic depletion, mutational inactivation of its triphosphohydrolase activity or proteasomal degradation using specialized, virus-like particles(7,8) potentiates the cytotoxicity of Ara-C in AML cells. In mouse models of retroviral AML transplantation, as well as in retrospective analyses of adult patients with AML, the response to Ara-C-containing therapy was inversely correlated with SAMHD1 expression. These results identify SAMHD1 as a potential biomarker for the stratification of patients with AML who might best respond to Ara-C-based therapy and as a target for treating Ara-C-refractory AML.