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Hoxa cluster genes determine the proliferative activity of adult mouse hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.

Lebert-Ghali CÉ, Fournier M, Kettyle L, Thompson A, Sauvageau G, Bijl JJ

Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Center, Montreal, QC, Canada; Department of Microbiology, Infectiology and Immunology, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada;

Determination of defined roles for endogenous homeobox (Hox) genes in adult hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) activity has been hampered by a combination of embryonic defects and functional redundancy. Here we show that conditional homozygous deletion of the Hoxa cluster (Hoxa(-/-)) results in a marked reduction of adult HSPC activity, both in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, proliferation of Hoxa(-/-) HSPCs is reduced compared with wild-type (WT) cells in vitro and they are less competitive in vivo. Notably, the loss of Hoxa genes had little impact on HSPC differentiation. Comparative RNA sequencing analyses of Hoxa(-/-) and WT hematopoietic stem cells (CD150(+)/CD48(-)/Lineage(-)/c-kit(+)/Sca-1(+)) identified a large number of differentially expressed genes, three of which (Nr4a3, Col1a1, and Hnf4a) showed >10-fold reduced levels. Engineered overexpression of Hoxa9 in Hoxa(-/-) HSPCs resulted in partial phenotypic rescue in vivo with associated recovery in expression of a large proportion of deregulated genes. Together, these results provide definitive evidence linking Hoxa gene expression to proliferation of adult HSPCs.

Blood 2016;127(1):87-90.

Pubmed ID: 26585953

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