Key Points

  • TWIST1 is required for HSC maintenance under steady-state and protects HSC against genotoxic stresses.

  • TWIST1 preserves the function of HSC by repressing CACNA1B/Ca2+/mitochondria axis.

Mitochondria of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) play crucial roles in regulating cell fate and preserving HSC functionality and survival. However, the mechanism underlying its regulation remains poorly understood. Here, we identify transcription factor TWIST1 as a novel regulator of HSC maintenance through modulating mitochondrial function. We demonstrate that Twist1 deletion results in a significantly decreased lymphoid-biased (Ly-biased) HSC frequency, markedly reduced HSC dormancy and self-renewal capacities, and skewed myeloid differentiation in steady-state hematopoiesis. Twist1-deficient HSCs are more compromised in tolerance of irradiation and 5-fluorouracil-induced stresses, and exhibit typical phenotypes of senescence. Mechanistically, Twist1 deletion induces transactivation of voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) Cacna1b which exhausts Ly-biased HSCs, impairs genotoxic hematopoietic recovery, and enhances mitochondrial calcium levels, metabolic activity, and reactive oxygen species production. Suppression of VGCC by a calcium channel blocker largely rescues the phenotypic and functional defects in Twist1-deleted HSCs under both steady-state and stress conditions. Collectively, our data, for the first time, characterize TWIST1 as a critical regulator of HSC function acting through the CACNA1B/Ca2+/mitochondria axis, and highlight the importance of Ca2+ in HSC maintenance. These observations provide new insights into the mechanisms for the control of HSC fate.

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