Abstract

The bHLH transcription factor stem cell leukemia/T-cell acute leukemia gene (Scl/Tal1) is a master regulator for hematopoiesis, essential for hematopoietic specification and proper differentiation of the erythroid and megakaryocyte lineages. However, the critical downstream targets of Scl remain undefined. To identify Scl target genes in hematopoietic cells, we performed gene expression analysis on HOX11-immortalized Sclfl/fl fetal liver cell lines. Analysis of the top 50 downregulated genes revealed several genes related to hematopoiesis including erythroid and megakaryocyte development, vasculogenesis, as well as genes/unknown ESTs that have not been previously linked to blood development. One of the top downregulated genes was transcription factor myocyte enhancer factor 2C (Mef2C). Mef2C−/− embryos die at E9.5, the same time as Scl−/− embryos, and exhibit severe defects in cardiac and muscle development. Analysis of Mef2C−/− embryos showed that, Mef2C, in contrast to Scl, is not required for specification into primitive or definitive hematopoietic lineages. To bypass the embryonic lethality, we utilized a conditionally targeted Mef2Cfl/fl strain and crossed it with a hematopoietic cell-specific VavCre strain that deactivates Mef2C shortly after the emergence of HSCs. Interestingly, adult VavCre+Mef2Cfl/fl mice exhibited severe platelet defects highly reminiscent to those observed in Scl deficient mice. The platelet counts were reduced, while platelet size was increased and the platelet shape and granularity was altered. Furthermore, megakaryopoiesis was severely impaired in vitro. ChIP-on-chip analysis revealed that Mef2C is directly regulated by Scl in megakaryocytic cells, but not in erythroid cells. In addition, an Scl independent requirement for Mef2C in B-lymphoid homeostasis was observed in Mef2C-deficient mice, characterized as severe age-dependent reductions of specific B-cell progenitor populations reminiscent of premature aging. In summary, this work identifies Mef2C as an integral member of hematopoietic transcription factors with distinct upstream regulatory mechanisms and functional requirements in megakaryocyte and B-lymphoid lineages.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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