Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) is an X-linked recessive immunodeficiency disorder with eczema, thrombocytopenia and high susceptibility to opportunistic and pyogenic infections. The gene product of the WAS locus, WAS protein (WASP), is expressed in a hematopoietic-specific fashion and regulates cytoskeletal actin reorganization via Cdc42 and Arp2/3 interactions. Non-random inactivation of the X chromosome carrying the defective WASP gene in all peripheral blood cells from obligate female carriers of WAS suggests a selective advantage of hematopoietic stem cells or immature progenitor cells expressing the intact WASP gene. Because such progenitor cells are dependent on the Kit receptor/Kit ligand (KL) pathway, we tested whether or not WASP plays a role in signaling responses through Kit. WASP and interacting proteins WIP and Arp2/3 were strongly phosphorylated in response to KL stimulation of Mo7e cells. Time kinetics revealed onset of tyrosine phosphorylation of WASP as early as 1 min and a maximum at 5 min after KL stimulation. Although real-time KL-induced actin reorganization and KL-mediated spreading of bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMC) on fibronectin-coated surfaces were grossly normal, KL-induced formation of filopodia was significantly decreased in number and size in the absence of WASP. In addition, KL-induced calcium-flux in BMMCs was aberrant in the absence of WASP suggesting that KL-dependent calcium signals and cytoskeletal rearrangement are linked through WASP. When BMMC cultures were established from WASP heterozygous female mice using KL as a growth factor, the cultures initially contained a mixture of WASP positive and negative populations. KL-driven differentiation into mature BMMCs eventually resulted in homogenous WASP positive cultures derived from the WASP positive progenitors. Thus, WASP expression conferred a selective advantage to the development of Kit-dependent hematopoiesis consistent with the selective advantage of WASP positive blood cells observed in WAS heterozygous female humans. Finally, KL-mediated gene expression in BMMCs derived from WASP negative mice or WT controls was compared and revealed in summary that at least 30% of all changes are WASP-dependent. The results indicate that WASP is downstream of Kit signaling and necessary for Kit-mediated filopodia formation, cell survival and gene expression.

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