There is significant individual variation in humans in their ability to mobilize hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC) from bone marrow (BM) to peripheral blood upon G-CSF stimulation. Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying this variation may provide clinically significant targets to improve HSPC mobilization. Using forward genetics, we have previously demonstrated that a locus on chromosome 11 is responsible for murine inter-strain variation in G-CSF mediated HSPC mobilization (Geiger et. al., Exp. Hematol., 2004). Novel subcongenic animals were generated that further confined the locus to a 5 Mbp interval. Of the 12 genes in this interval, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was identified as a candidate gene for regulating inter-strain differences in mobilization. Using real-time PCR, we demonstrated that EGFR is expressed in both murine and human HSPC and that the level of EGFR expression is inversely correlated with GCSF-induced mobilization proficiency of murine HSPC. To further demonstrate a role of EGFR signaling in mobilization, C57BL/6 mice were treated with G-CSF and increasing concentrations of murine recombinant epidermal growth factor (EGF). Our results demonstrated that a single dose of EGF (0.8 ug/g) significantly inhibited mobilization efficiency (approx. 4-fold) (46.7±13 CFC/37.5ul PB with G-CSF treated mice vs. 12.67±1.5 CFC/37.5ul PB with G-CSF + EGF treated mice). To determine whether the reduction in mobilization efficiency is dependent upon EGFR activity, EGFR mutant mice (waved-2+/−) were treated with G-CSF and EGF. In contrast to control mice, EGF had no significant inhibitory effect on G-CSF-mediated mobilization in waved-2+/− mice indicating that EGFR signaling is necessary for inhibition of mobilization by EGF (46.7±13.0 vs. 12.67±1.5 CFC/37.5ul PB, G-CSF vs G-CSF+EGF treated control mice compared to 14.2±3.7 vs. 12.1±3.6 CFC/37.5ul PB with waved-2+/− mice). To determine if EGFR-signaling regulated mobilization is HSC intrinsic, we performed “competitive mobilization experiments” in which equal numbers of BM cells (4x106) from either control or waved-2−/− mice and competitor Ly5.1 cells were transplanted into lethally irradiated BoyJ mice and subsequently treated with G-CSF and EGF. Animals transplanted with control cells demonstrated a significant reduction in mobilization efficiency in response to EGF compared to animals transplanted with waved-2−/− cells (20.2±7.2 vs. 7.89±1.2 CFC/37.5ul PB, G-CSF vs G-CSF+EGF treated control transplanted mice compared to 20.3±4.5 vs. 18.67±1.2 CFC/37.5ul PB with waved-2−/− transplanted mice) indicating that EGFR activity in hematopoietic cells is necessary to confer inhibition of mobilization efficiency by EGF. Taken together, these findings identify EGFR signaling as a negative regulator and a genetic modifier of G-CSF induced mobilization proficiency and a potential novel target to enhance HSPC mobilization efficiency.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.