Multiple genetic hits are detected in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). To investigate this further, we developed a tetracycline-inducible mouse model of AML, in which the initial transforming event, overexpression of HOXA10, can be eliminated. Continuous overexpression of HOXA10 is required to generate AML in primary recipient mice, but is not essential for maintenance of the leukemia. Transplantation of AML to secondary recipients showed that in established leukemias, ∼80% of the leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) in bone marrow stopped proliferating upon withdrawal of HOXA10 overexpression. However, the population of LICs in primary recipients is heterogeneous, as ∼20% of the LICs induce leukemia in secondary recipients despite elimination of HOXA10-induced overexpression. Intrinsic genetic activation of several proto-oncogenes was observed in leukemic cells resistant to inactivation of the initial transformation event. Interestingly, high levels of the adhesion molecule CD44 on leukemic cells are essential to generate leukemia after removal of the primary event. This suggests that extrinsic niche-dependent factors are also involved in the host-dependent outgrowth of leukemias after withdrawal of HOXA10 overexpression event that initiates the leukemia.