Key Points

  • Endoglin deletion in HSCs impairs quiescence, as shown by significant engraftment defect in tertiary and quaternary transplanted recipients.

  • Endoglin-mediated HSC defect is due to decreased phosphorylation of canonical and noncanonical TGF-β downstream effectors.


Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is well known for its important function in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) quiescence. However, the molecular mechanism underlining this function remains obscure. Endoglin (Eng), a type III receptor for the TGF-β superfamily, has been shown to selectively mark long-term HSCs; however, its necessity in adult HSCs is unknown due to embryonic lethality. Using conditional deletion of Eng combined with serial transplantation, we show that this TGF-β receptor is critical to maintain the HSC pool. Transplantation of Eng-deleted whole bone marrow or purified HSCs into lethally irradiated mice results in a profound engraftment defect in tertiary and quaternary recipients. Cell cycle analysis of primary grafts revealed decreased frequency of HSCs in G0, suggesting that lack of Eng impairs reentry of HSCs to quiescence. Using cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF) to evaluate the activity of signaling pathways in individual HSCs, we find that Eng is required within the LinSca+Kit+–CD48 CD150+ fraction for canonical and noncanonical TGF-β signaling, as indicated by decreased phosphorylation of SMAD2/3 and the p38 MAPK-activated protein kinase 2, respectively. These findings support an essential role for Eng in positively modulating TGF-β signaling to ensure maintenance of HSC quiescence.

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