Regulatory mechanisms governing homing and engraftment of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) involve a complex interplay between chemokines, cytokines, growth factors and adhesion molecules in the intricate architecture of bone marrow (BM) microenvironment. HSCs express P2Y and P2X receptors for extracellular nucleotides, which activation by ATP and UTP has been recently demonstrated (Lemoli et al. Blood. 2004) to produce potent stimulatory effects on HSCs. Moreover extracellular nucleotides are emerging as key factors of flogosis phenomena and related chemotactic responses of several cell types, such as dendritic cells, monocytes and endothelial cells. In this study we investigated the biologic activity of extracellular ATP and UTP and their capacity to cooperatively promote SDF-1 (stromal cell-derived factor-1)-stimulated cell chemotaxis. Low concentrations of UTP (10uM) significantly improved, in vitro, HSCs migration. Moreover, UTP inhibits CXCR4 down-regulation of migrating CD34+ cells and increased cell adhesion to fibronectin filaments. Furthermore, in vivo competitive repopulation assays showed that preincubation with UTP significantly improved the homing efficiency of human CD34+ HSCs in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient mice.

Inhibition assays with Pertussis Toxin from B. Pertussis blocked SDF-1- and UTP-dependent chemotactic responses, suggesting that Gαi proteins may provide a converging signal for CXCR4- and P2Y-activated transduction pathways. In addition, gene expression profiling of UTP-treated CD34+ cells and subsequent in vitro inhibition assays with Toxin B from C. Difficile suggest that RhoGTPase Rac2 and his downstream effectors ROCK1 and ROCK2 are involved in the UTP-promoted, SDF-1-dependent HSCs migration.

Taken together, our data suggest that UTP may physiologically modulate HSC migration and homing to the BM, in concert with the chemotactic peptide SDF-1, via the activation of converging signaling transduction pathways between CXCR4 and P2Y receptors, involving Gαi proteins and RhoGTPases.

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