Notch receptors are conserved cell surface molecules essential for hematopoietic cell fate determination. Activated Notch enhances self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells and promotes T lymphopoiesis. O-linked fucose moieties attached to the EGF domains of Notch receptors and its modification by Fringe can strongly modulate Notch signaling. Our recently published results indicate that Notch-dependent signaling controls myelopoiesis both in vitro and in vivo, and identify a requirement for Notch fucosylation in the expression of Notch ligand binding activity and Notch signaling efficiency in hematopoietic progenitor cells. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that fucosylation controlled Notch signaling regulates hematopoietic lineage homeostasis. Genetically-modified mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells deficient in Notch1 receptor (NOTCH1−/−) or pofut1 (POFUT1−/−) that controls O-fucose modification of Notch receptor EGF repeats are studied in an in vitro co-culture assay with Notch ligand-expressing OP9 cells. Activation of Notch in wild type ES cells promotes T lymphopoiesis, while exposure of NOTCH1−/− or POFUT1−/− ES cells to Notch ligand failed to generate T lymphocytes but sustained granulocytic production. When probed with recombinant Notch ligand Dll1 or Dll4, hematopoietic cells derived from wild type ES line displayed robust Notch ligand binding, but cells from NOTCH1−/− or POFUT1−/− ES lines showed completely absent or reduced Notch ligand interaction, respectively. In comparison, ES cells deficient in pofut2 (POFUT2−/−) that controls O-fucose modification on thrombospondin repeats (TSR) displayed a wild type lineage development phenotype and normal Notch ligand binding ability. When examined for their in vivo hematopoietic reconstitution, blood cells derived from NOTCH1−/− or POFUT1−/− ES lines, but not POFUT2−/− ES line, showed enhanced granulocytic but suppressed T and B lymphoid lineage development. These results are consistent with our bone marrow transplantation findings that hematopoietic reconstitution by fucosylation-deficient marrow progenitor cells exhibited increased granulocytopoiesis while wild type or fucosylation-intact marrow cells have normal lineage distribution. Our observations indicate that Notch signaling maintains blood lineage homeostasis by promoting lymphoid lineage development and suppressing overt myeloid development. O-fucose modification of EGF repeats on Notch receptor is essential for this Notch-dependent control of blood lineage homeostasis as deficiency of fucose on Notch receptor results in enhanced myeloid development.

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