The early events that drive myeloid oncogenesis are not well understood. Most studies focus on the cell-intrinsic genetic changes and how they impact cell fate decisions. We consider how chronic exposure to the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), impacts Cebpa-knockout hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) in competitive settings. Surprisingly, we found that Cebpa loss did not confer a hematopoietic cell–intrinsic competitive advantage; rather chronic IL-1β exposure engendered potent selection for Cebpa loss. Chronic IL-1β augments myeloid lineage output by activating differentiation and repressing stem cell gene expression programs in a Cebpa-dependent manner. As a result, Cebpa-knockout HSPCs are resistant to the prodifferentiative effects of chronic IL-1β, and competitively expand. We further show that ectopic CEBPA expression reduces the fitness of established human acute myeloid leukemias, coinciding with increased differentiation. These findings have important implications for the earliest events that drive hematologic disorders, suggesting that chronic inflammation could be an important driver of leukemogenesis and a potential target for intervention.

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