In acute myeloid leukemia, chemotherapy resistance remains prevalent and poorly understood. Using functional proteomics of patient AML specimens, we identified MEF2C S222 phosphorylation as a specific marker of primary chemoresistance. We found that Mef2c S222A/S222A knock-in mutant mice engineered to block MEF2C phosphorylation exhibited normal hematopoiesis, but were resistant to leukemogenesis induced by MLL-AF9. MEF2C phosphorylation was required for leukemia stem cell maintenance, and induced by MARK kinases in cells. Treatment with the selective MARK inhibitor MRT199665 caused apoptosis of MEF2C-activated human AML cell lines and primary patient specimens, but not those lacking MEF2C phosphorylation. These findings identify kinase-dependent dysregulation of transcription factor control as a determinant of therapy response in AML, with immediate potential for improved diagnosis and treatment for this disease.