Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) maintenance and self-renewal is crucial for long term tissue repopulation and immune function. HSC populations require functional DNA repair pathways in order to maintain their reconstitution capabilities but the pathways involved and the mechanisms of regulation are still being elucidated. It has been proposed that quiescent HSCs rely on the error prone non homologous end joining pathway for DNA double strand break (DSB) repair while HSCs in cycle use both NHEJ and the high fidelity homologous recombination (HR), but functional in vivo studies have not yet been completed. Exonuclease 1 participates in homologous recombination. We used Exo1mut fibroblasts to demonstrate that loss of Exo1 function results in a defective HR response, increased sensitivity to DSB inducing agents, and aberrant DNA damage signaling. However, Exo1mut mice did not appear to require HR to maintain quiescent HSCs at steady state or to respond to DNA damage. Exo1mutmice were able to sustain long term serial repopulation, displayed no defect in competitive repopulation or quiescence maintenance, and did not display increased sensitivity to whole body ionizing radiation (IR). In contrast, when Exo1mut HSCs were pushed into cell cycle with 5-Fluorouracil, the hematopoietic population and HSCs became hypersensitive to IR stress relative to WT B6 mice, as shown by decreased bone marrow cellularity, colony forming unit defects, loss of the HSC population, and finally animal death. Thus, loss of Exo1, and in turn fully functional HR, in quiescent HSC is not critical to stem cell function, survival, or recovery after DNA damage, whereas HR mediated repair of DNA damage is essential for HSC maintenance after cell cycle entry. In HSCs, DNA damage repair response, and sensitivity is dependent on cell cycle.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.