Research in the Weissman Lab

Stem cell biology in health and disease and the development of macrophage-based immunotherapy:

Tissue stem cells are rare and only make the maturing and mature cells of the tissue they serve [HSC for blood, CNS stem cells for brain, skeletal stem cells for bone and cartilage and bone marrow inductive microenvironments, etc.]. Within a tissue they are the only cells that can self-renew throughout life. While the usual outcome is tissue and organ homeostasis, stem cells can accumulate and propagate mutations over many years, and those mutant stem cells can contribute to disease. Mutations that arise in any non-stem cell in a tissue are lost via the limited lifespan of non self-renewing cells. In leukemic cells, the lab discovered up-regulation of CD47 that acts as a ‘don’t eat me signal for macrophages and allows cancer cells to evade an immune response. They developed anti-CD47 as a cancer immunotherapy and continue to investigate how macrophages recognize and eliminate unhealthy cells, with a prospect of advancing medicine. 

The biology of HSC and their niche: Weissman was first to identify, prospectively isolate, and transplant hematopoietic [blood-forming] stem cells, called HSC from mice and humans. HSCs generate and regenerate the entire blood and immune systems throughout life. The lab has then isolated and studied the progenitor steps between the HSC and each of the blood cell type produced. He has also traced the formation of HSC during mouse embryogenesis and fetal development, and for all of these candidate stem and progenitor cells has optimized single cell RNAseq and utilized ATACseq and CHIPseq to elucidate the steady state expression of suites of genes that characterize each stem and progenitor cell in both species. These technologies have allowed the lab to propose candidate genes whose expression either characterize the molecular fingerprints of those cells, but point toward the events required for stem cell self-renewal and for differentiation to the next cell in the developmental pathways. To study HSC and their niche, the lab generated unique reporter mouse models in which HSC expressing a fluorescent marker, HoxB5.mCherry exist as single cells attached to a subtype of bone marrow blood vessel cell, surrounded also by stromal cells from the skeletal stem cell. In parabiotic pairs, mice with a joined vasculature to each other, these marked HSC migrate from one mouse to the partner bone marrow to occupy one of these vascular niches. Working out how these interactions and migrations occur and the molecules that are responsible is a current interest of the lab.

Human Brain Stem Cells [CNS SC]: Weissman and colleagues identified and prospectively isolated human fetal brain stem cells, and upon their transplantation into the brains of immune deficient mice, found that these CNS SC home to mouse brain stem cell niches near the lateral ventricles and in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. The progeny of these human CNS SC self-renew in these niches, migrate their progeny in a site appropriate manner long distances through the brain, and differentiate to neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes in site appropriate manners as well. This allows one to begin to understand adult human CNS SC behaviors. These human CNS SC can engraft in patients and have regenerative and neuroprotective properties. Each CNS SC can be propagated in vitro into clonal spheres of CNS SC. Recently students in the Weissman lab have found how to identify, isolate grow, and transplant human CNS SC from surgical samples. 

Stem Cells, Clonal Precancer Cells, and Progeny Cancer Stem Cells: Over the past 20 years the Weissman lab developed a method to identify mutations in single cells, and using that showed that preclinical progression occurs due to stepwise accumulation of driver mutations in a clone of HSCs leading to clonal expansions of preleukemic HSCs, competing with normal HSC for the single HSC cell niches, with the last step forming leukemia stem cells [LSC]. While random passenger mutations also occur, sometime creating new antigens; passenger mutations do not contribute to clonal expansions. The preleukemic HSC clones can become disease cells in CML, MDS, and acute leukemias. This model of preclinical cancer progression through accumulation of mutations in stem cells should apply to any somatic tissue. Work in the lab is currently focused on studying neural stem cells, their generation of oligolineage progenitors to form the brain neuropoietic tree similar to the hematopoietic  tree, to use them for study single cell RNAseq to discover genes enforcing or preventing each step of differentiation, and to identify genes that allow their progeny to self-renew, migrate, and differentiate in a site-appropriate manner. A current project in the lab is to isolate CNS-SC from surgical samples of brain tumors resected from patients with incurable brain cancers, to look for the order in which driver and passenger mutations occur, and to use their clonal expansion to neurospheres to work out the in vivo biological consequences of each driver mutation. 

Macrophage regulation and its therapeutic application: By comparing leukemic to healthy hematopietic stem cells, the Weissman lab has identified CD47 overexpression on LSC, and then on all cancers tested. They showed that CD47 is a cell surface molecule used by cancer cells to evade macrophage phagocytosis by binding to its receptor, SIRPa on macrophages. This led to the development of a new type of immunotherapy based on macrophage checkpoint inhibition through blockade of CD47 which is perhaps the first target  expressed on all human cancers tested. In pre-clinical research using patient-derived xenografts, we showed dramatic effects in the treatment of diverse types of human cancer with anti-CD47 antibodies or blocking agents that neutralize the inhibitory effect of CD47-SIRPa interaction and unleashes the ability of macrophages to engulf and eliminate cancer cells.  Importantly, antibody blockade of CD47 did not affect normal cells expressing CD47. This suggested that cancer cells but not normal cells display an ‘eat me’ signal, which they discovered to be calreticulin, a signal recognized by macrophage prophagocytic receptor CD91. Blockade of CD47 allows macrophage removal only of cells that express calreticulin on their surface. Weissman et al discovered that calreticulin is mainly produced and secreted by activated macrophages, and that it binds to nearby cancer cells through recognition of surface asialoglycans, presumably via sialic acid removing enzymes that create the calreticulin binding sites. The molecular and cellular mechanisms for this system are currently under study. The lab has also found 3 additional don’t eat me molecules and their macrophage receptors. 

Our findings in collaboration with the Leeper lab re Atherosclerosis: This collaboration has shown that atherosclerotic plaque formation involves the clonal expansion of arterial smooth muscle cells from local stem or progenitor cells. These cells display both CD47 and calreticulin on their surface. Treatment with anti-CD47 antibodies in a mouse model (high fat diet on a genetically susceptible background), resulted in the elimination of atherosclerotic lesions, and preliminary studies implicate this process in human atherosclerosis, a process that leads to heart attacks, stroke, aortic aneurysms, and loss of tissues in diabetic atherosclerosis. Current research in the lab continues to explore the role of macrophages in disease prevention and treatment, through understanding how macrophages recognize their target cells, and the signals that impact the ability of these cells to maintain tissue integrity and sustain a state of health. 


Stem cell research in a marine model organism: At the Hopkins Marine Station, the Weissman lab has space where it’s been conducting stem cell research in the marine model organism Botryllus schlosseri.  This model organism has very interesting stem cell biology and immunology as related above.. It is a colonial organism, in which each individual within the colony undergoes a complete regeneration cycle weekly through a process of budding. When two adjacent colonies develop vascular anastomoses, stem cells from one colony can compete with stem cells of the other; for the germline stem cells, there is always a winner and a loser strain. Practically what this means is that stem cells from one colony invade the other and can take over the germline so that the invaded colony will now produce gametes, reproductive cells, of the genotype of its neighbor.

The discovery of this process is what led Weissman to realize that stem cells can compete and to hypothesize and then prove that both spermatogenic stem cells compete in mice, and led to the concept and proof of competition in preleukemic clonal expansions, in the leukemias and in aging.  

A current list of publications

 

Director, Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Professor of Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research, Professor of Developmental Biology and, by courtesy, of Biology

Publications

  • A Clinical PET Imaging Tracer ([18F]DASA-23) to Monitor Pyruvate Kinase M2 Induced Glycolytic Reprogramming in Glioblastoma. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research Beinat, C., Patel, C. B., Haywood, T., Murty, S., Naya, L., Castillo, J. B., Reyes, S. T., Phillips, M., Buccino, P., Shen, B., Park, J. H., Koran, M. E., Alam, I. S., James, M. L., Holley, D., Halbert, K., Gandhi, H., He, J. Q., Granucci, M., Johnson, E., Liu, D. D., Uchida, N., Sinha, R., Chu, P., Born, D. E., Warnock, G. I., Weissman, I., Hayden Gephart, M., Khalighi, M. M., Massoud, T. F., Iagaru, A., Davidzon, G., Thomas, R., Nagpal, S., Recht, L. D., Gambhir, S. S. 2021

    Abstract

    PURPOSE: Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) catalyzes the final step in glycolysis, a key process of cancer metabolism. PKM2 is preferentially expressed by glioblastoma (GBM) cells with minimal expression in healthy brain. We describe the development, validation, and translation of a novel positron emission tomography (PET) tracer to study PKM2 in GBM. We evaluated 1-((2-fluoro-6-[18F]fluorophenyl)sulfonyl)-4-((4-methoxyphenyl)sulfonyl)piperazine ([18F]DASA-23) in cell culture, mouse models of GBM, healthy human volunteers, and GBM patients.EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: [18F]DASA-23 was synthesized with a molar activity of 100.47 {plus minus} 29.58 GBq/mol and radiochemical purity >95%. We performed initial testing of [18F]DASA-23 in GBM cell culture and human GBM xenografts implanted orthotopically into mice. Next we produced [18F]DASA-23 under FDA oversight, and evaluated it in healthy volunteers, and a pilot cohort of glioma patients.RESULTS: In mouse imaging studies, [18F]DASA-23 clearly delineated the U87 GBM from surrounding healthy brain tissue and had a tumor-to-brain ratio (TBR) of 3.6 {plus minus} 0.5. In human volunteers, [18F]DASA-23 crossed the intact blood-brain barrier and was rapidly cleared. In GBM patients, [18F]DASA-23 successfully outlined tumors visible on contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The uptake of [18F]DASA-23 was markedly elevated in GBMs compared to normal brain, and it identified a metabolic non-responder within 1-week of treatment initiation.CONCLUSIONS: We developed and translated [18F]DASA-23 as a new tracer that demonstrated the visualization of aberrantly expressed PKM2 for the first time in human subjects. These results warrant further clinical evaluation of [18F]DASA-23 to assess its utility for imaging therapy-induced normalization of aberrant cancer metabolism.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0544

    View details for PubMedID 34475101

  • Combining CD47 blockade with trastuzumab eliminates HER2-positive breast cancer cells and overcomes trastuzumab tolerance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Upton, R., Banuelos, A., Feng, D., Biswas, T., Kao, K., McKenna, K., Willingham, S., Ho, P. Y., Rosental, B., Tal, M. C., Raveh, T., Volkmer, J., Pegram, M. D., Weissman, I. L. 2021; 118 (29)

    Abstract

    Trastuzumab, a targeted anti-human epidermal-growth-factor receptor-2 (HER2) monoclonal antibody, represents a mainstay in the treatment of HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer. Although trastuzumab treatment is highly efficacious for early-stage HER2+ breast cancer, the majority of advanced-stage HER2+ breast cancer patients who initially respond to trastuzumab acquire resistance to treatment and relapse, despite persistence of HER2 gene amplification/overexpression. Here, we sought to leverage HER2 overexpression to engage antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) through a combination of trastuzumab and anti-CD47 macrophage checkpoint immunotherapy. We have previously shown that blockade of CD47, a surface protein expressed by many malignancies (including HER2+ breast cancer), is an effective anticancer therapy. CD47 functions as a "don't eat me" signal through its interaction with signal regulatory protein-alpha (SIRPalpha) on macrophages to inhibit phagocytosis. Hu5F9-G4 (magrolimab), a humanized monoclonal antibody against CD47, blocks CD47's "don't eat me" signal, thereby facilitating macrophage-mediated phagocytosis. Preclinical studies have shown that combining Hu5F9-G4 with tumor-targeting antibodies, such as rituximab, further enhances Hu5F9-G4's anticancer effects via ADCP. Clinical trials have additionally demonstrated that Hu5F9-G4, in combination with rituximab, produced objective responses in patients whose diffuse large B cell lymphomas had developed resistance to rituximab and chemotherapy. These studies led us to hypothesize that combining Hu5F9-G4 with trastuzumab would produce an anticancer effect in antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC)-tolerant HER2+ breast cancer. This combination significantly suppressed the growth of ADCC-tolerant HER2+ breast cancers via Fc-dependent ADCP. Our study demonstrates that combining trastuzumab and Hu5F9-G4 represents a potential new treatment option for HER2+ breast cancer patients, even for patients whose tumors have progressed after trastuzumab.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2026849118

    View details for PubMedID 34257155

  • Distinct skeletal stem cell types orchestrate long bone skeletogenesis. eLife Ambrosi, T. H., Sinha, R., Steininger, H. M., Hoover, M. Y., Murphy, M. P., Koepke, L. S., Wang, Y., Lu, W., Morri, M., Neff, N. F., Weissman, I. L., Longaker, M. T., Chan, C. K. 2021; 10

    Abstract

    Skeletal stem and progenitor cell populations are crucial for bone physiology. Characterization of these cell types remains restricted to heterogenous bulk populations with limited information on whether they are unique or overlap with previously characterized cell types. Here we show, through comprehensive functional and single-cell transcriptomic analyses, that postnatal long bones of mice contain at least two types of bone progenitors with bona fide skeletal stem cell (SSC) characteristics. An early osteochondral SSC (ocSSC) facilitates long bone growth and repair, while a second type, a perivascular SSC (pvSSC), co-emerges with long bone marrow and contributes to shape the hematopoietic stem cell niche and regenerative demand. We establish that pvSSCs, but not ocSSCs, are the origin of bone marrow adipose tissue. Lastly, we also provide insight into residual SSC heterogeneity as well as potential crosstalk between the two spatially distinct cell populations. These findings comprehensively address previously unappreciated shortcomings of SSC research.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.66063

    View details for PubMedID 34280086

  • CD47 blockade reduces the pathologic features of experimental cerebral malaria and promotes survival of hosts with Plasmodium infection PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Dulgeroff, L., Oakley, M. S., Tal, M. C., Yiu, Y., He, J. Q., Shoham, M., Majam, V., Okoth, W. A., Malla, P., Kumar, S., Weissman, I. L. 2021; 118 (11)
  • Restoring metabolism of myeloid cells reverses cognitive decline in ageing. Nature Minhas, P. S., Latif-Hernandez, A., McReynolds, M. R., Durairaj, A. S., Wang, Q., Rubin, A., Joshi, A. U., He, J. Q., Gauba, E., Liu, L., Wang, C., Linde, M., Sugiura, Y., Moon, P. K., Majeti, R., Suematsu, M., Mochly-Rosen, D., Weissman, I. L., Longo, F. M., Rabinowitz, J. D., Andreasson, K. I. 2021

    Abstract

    Ageing is characterized by the development of persistent pro-inflammatory responses that contribute to atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, cancer and frailty1-3. The ageing brain is also vulnerable to inflammation, as demonstrated by the high prevalence of age-associated cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease4-6. Systemically, circulating pro-inflammatory factors can promote cognitive decline7,8, and in the brain, microglia lose the ability to clear misfolded proteins that are associated with neurodegeneration9,10. However, the underlying mechanisms that initiate and sustain maladaptive inflammation with ageing are not well defined. Here we show that in ageing mice myeloid cell bioenergetics are suppressed in response to increased signalling by the lipid messenger prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), a major modulator of inflammation11. In ageing macrophages and microglia, PGE2 signalling through its EP2 receptor promotes the sequestration of glucose into glycogen, reducing glucose flux and mitochondrial respiration. This energy-deficient state, which drives maladaptive pro-inflammatory responses, is further augmented by a dependence of aged myeloid cells on glucose as a principal fuel source. In aged mice, inhibition of myeloid EP2 signalling rejuvenates cellular bioenergetics, systemic and brain inflammatory states, hippocampal synaptic plasticity and spatial memory. Moreover, blockade of peripheral myeloid EP2 signalling is sufficient to restore cognition in aged mice. Our study suggests that cognitive ageing is not a static or irrevocable condition but can be reversed by reprogramming myeloid glucose metabolism to restore youthful immune functions.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-020-03160-0

    View details for PubMedID 33473210

  • Safe and Effective In Vivo Targeting and Gene Editing in Hematopoietic Stem Cells: Strategies for Accelerating Development National Institutes of Health/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Expert Scientific Roundtable Webinar Meeting. Human gene therapy Cannon, P., Asokan, A., Czechowicz, A., Hammond, P., Kohn, D. B., Lieber, A., Malik, P., Marks, P., Porteus, M., Verhoeyen, E., Weissman, D., Weissman, I., Kiem, H. 2021

    Abstract

    Introduction On May 11, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation) held an exploratory expert scientific roundtable to inform an NIH-Gates Foundation collaboration on the development of scalable, sustainable, and accessible HIV and sickle cell disease (SCD) therapies based on in vivo gene editing of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). A particular emphasis was on how such therapies could be developed for low-resource settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Paula Cannon, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California and Hans-Peter Kiem, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center served as roundtable co-chairs. Welcoming remarks were provided by the leadership of NIH, NHLBI, and BMGF, who cited the importance of assessing the state of the science and charting a path toward finding safe, effective, and durable gene-based therapies for HIV and sickle cell disease. These remarks were followed by three sessions in which participants heard presentations on and discussed the therapeutic potential of modified HSCs, leveraging HSC biology and differentiation, and in vivo HSC targeting approaches. This roundtable serves as the beginning of an ongoing discussion among NIH, the Gates Foundation, research and patient communities, and the public at large. As this collaboration progresses, these communities will be engaged as we collectively navigate the complex scientific and ethical issues surrounding in vivo HSC targeting and editing. Summarized excerpts from each of the presentations are below, reflecting the individual views and perspectives of each presenter.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/hum.2020.263

    View details for PubMedID 33427035

  • Global analysis of shared T cell specificities in human non-small cell lung cancer enables HLA inference and antigen discovery. Immunity Chiou, S. H., Tseng, D. n., Reuben, A. n., Mallajosyula, V. n., Molina, I. S., Conley, S. n., Wilhelmy, J. n., McSween, A. M., Yang, X. n., Nishimiya, D. n., Sinha, R. n., Nabet, B. Y., Wang, C. n., Shrager, J. B., Berry, M. F., Backhus, L. n., Lui, N. S., Wakelee, H. A., Neal, J. W., Padda, S. K., Berry, G. J., Delaidelli, A. n., Sorensen, P. H., Sotillo, E. n., Tran, P. n., Benson, J. A., Richards, R. n., Labanieh, L. n., Klysz, D. D., Louis, D. M., Feldman, S. A., Diehn, M. n., Weissman, I. L., Zhang, J. n., Wistuba, I. I., Futreal, P. A., Heymach, J. V., Garcia, K. C., Mackall, C. L., Davis, M. M. 2021; 54 (3): 586–602.e8

    Abstract

    To identify disease-relevant T cell receptors (TCRs) with shared antigen specificity, we analyzed 778,938 TCRβ chain sequences from 178 non-small cell lung cancer patients using the GLIPH2 (grouping of lymphocyte interactions with paratope hotspots 2) algorithm. We identified over 66,000 shared specificity groups, of which 435 were clonally expanded and enriched in tumors compared to adjacent lung. The antigenic epitopes of one such tumor-enriched specificity group were identified using a yeast peptide-HLA A∗02:01 display library. These included a peptide from the epithelial protein TMEM161A, which is overexpressed in tumors and cross-reactive epitopes from Epstein-Barr virus and E. coli. Our findings suggest that this cross-reactivity may underlie the presence of virus-specific T cells in tumor infiltrates and that pathogen cross-reactivity may be a feature of multiple cancers. The approach and analytical pipelines generated in this work, as well as the specificity groups defined here, present a resource for understanding the T cell response in cancer.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2021.02.014

    View details for PubMedID 33691136

  • Aged skeletal stem cells generate an inflammatory degenerative niche. Nature Ambrosi, T. H., Marecic, O., McArdle, A., Sinha, R., Gulati, G. S., Tong, X., Wang, Y., Steininger, H. M., Hoover, M. Y., Koepke, L. S., Murphy, M. P., Sokol, J., Seo, E. Y., Tevlin, R., Lopez, M., Brewer, R. E., Mascharak, S., Lu, L., Ajanaku, O., Conley, S. D., Seita, J., Morri, M., Neff, N. F., Sahoo, D., Yang, F., Weissman, I. L., Longaker, M. T., Chan, C. K. 2021

    Abstract

    Loss of skeletal integrity during ageing and disease is associated with an imbalance in the opposing actions of osteoblasts and osteoclasts1. Here we show that intrinsic ageing of skeletal stem cells (SSCs)2 in mice alters signalling in the bone marrow niche and skews the differentiation of bone and blood lineages, leading to fragile bones that regenerate poorly. Functionally, aged SSCs have a decreased bone- and cartilage-forming potential but produce more stromal lineages that express high levels of pro-inflammatory and pro-resorptive cytokines. Single-cell RNA-sequencing studies link the functional loss to a diminished transcriptomic diversity of SSCs in aged mice, which thereby contributes to the transformation of the bone marrow niche. Exposure to a youthful circulation through heterochronic parabiosis or systemic reconstitution with young haematopoietic stem cells did not reverse the diminished osteochondrogenic activity of aged SSCs, or improve bone mass or skeletal healing parameters in aged mice. Conversely, the aged SSC lineage promoted osteoclastic activity and myeloid skewing by haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, suggesting that the ageing of SSCs is a driver of haematopoietic ageing. Deficient bone regeneration in aged mice could only be returned to youthful levels by applying a combinatorial treatment of BMP2 and a CSF1 antagonist locally to fractures, which reactivated aged SSCs and simultaneously ablated the inflammatory, pro-osteoclastic milieu. Our findings provide mechanistic insights into the complex, multifactorial mechanisms that underlie skeletal ageing and offer prospects for rejuvenating the aged skeletal system.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-03795-7

    View details for PubMedID 34381212

  • Reactivation of the pluripotency program precedes formation of the cranial neural crest. Science (New York, N.Y.) Zalc, A., Sinha, R., Gulati, G. S., Wesche, D. J., Daszczuk, P., Swigut, T., Weissman, I. L., Wysocka, J. 2021; 371 (6529)

    Abstract

    During development, cells progress from a pluripotent state to a more restricted fate within a particular germ layer. However, cranial neural crest cells (CNCCs), a transient cell population that generates most of the craniofacial skeleton, have much broader differentiation potential than their ectodermal lineage of origin. Here, we identify a neuroepithelial precursor population characterized by expression of canonical pluripotency transcription factors that gives rise to CNCCs and is essential for craniofacial development. Pluripotency factor Oct4 is transiently reactivated in CNCCs and is required for the subsequent formation of ectomesenchyme. Furthermore, open chromatin landscapes of Oct4+ CNCC precursors resemble those of epiblast stem cells, with additional features suggestive of priming for mesenchymal programs. We propose that CNCCs expand their developmental potential through a transient reacquisition of molecular signatures of pluripotency.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.abb4776

    View details for PubMedID 33542111

  • Hoxb5 defines the heterogeneity of self-renewal capacity in the hematopoietic stem cell compartment. Biochemical and biophysical research communications Sakamaki, T. n., Kao, K. S., Nishi, K. n., Chen, J. Y., Sadaoka, K. n., Fujii, M. n., Takaori-Kondo, A. n., Weissman, I. L., Miyanishi, M. n. 2021; 539: 34–41

    Abstract

    Self-renewal and multipotency are essential functions of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). To maintain homeostatic hematopoiesis, functionally uniform HSCs have been thought to be an ideal cell-of-origin. Recent technological advances in the field have allowed us to analyze HSCs with single cell resolution and implicate that functional heterogeneity may exist even within the highly purified HSC compartment. However, due in part to the technical limitations of analyzing extremely rare populations and our incomplete understanding of HSC biology, neither the biological meaning of why heterogeneity exists nor the precise mechanism of how heterogeneity is determined within the HSC compartment is entirely known. Here we show the first evidence that self-renewal capacity varies with the degree of replication stress dose and results in heterogeneity within the HSC compartment. Using the Hoxb5-reporter mouse line which enables us to distinguish between long-term (LT)-HSCs and short-term (ST)-HSCs, we have found that ST-HSCs quickly lose self-renewal capacity under high stress environments but can maintain self-renewal under low stress environments for long periods of time. Critically, exogeneous Hoxb5 expression confers protection against loss of self-renewal to Hoxb5-negative HSCs and can partially alter the cell fate of ST-HSCs to that of LT-HSCs. Our results demonstrate that Hoxb5 imparts functional heterogeneity in the HSC compartment by regulating self-renewal capacity. Additionally, Hoxb5-positive HSCs may exist as fail-safe system to protect from the exhaustion of HSCs throughout an organism's lifespan.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.12.077

    View details for PubMedID 33418191