Disruption of nSMase-2 alters EV biogenesis and activates an adaptive ISR in HSPCs.
Brief ex vivo pharmacological inhibition of nSMase-2 durably enhances long-term repopulation capacity.
Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) transplantation serves as a curative therapy for many benign and malignant hematopoietic disorders and as a platform for gene therapy. However, growing needs for ex vivo manipulation of HSPC-graft products are limited by barriers in maintaining critical self-renewal and quiescence properties. The role of sphingolipid metabolism in safeguarding these essential cellular properties has been recently recognized, but not yet widely explored. Here, we demonstrate that pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of neutral sphingomyelinase 2 (nSMase-2) leads to sustained improvements in long-term competitive transplantation efficiency after ex vivo culture. Mechanistically, nSMase-2 blockade activates a canonical integrated stress response (ISR) and promotes metabolic quiescence in human and murine HSPCs. These adaptations result in part from disruption in sphingolipid metabolism that impairs the release of nSMase-2–dependent extracellular vesicles (EVs). The aggregate findings link EV trafficking and the ISR as a regulatory dyad guarding HSPC homeostasis and long-term fitness. Translationally, transient nSMase-2 inhibition enables ex vivo graft manipulation with enhanced HSPC potency.