Previously we identified IGFBP2 as an extrinsic factor that supports ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The role of IGFBP2 in HSCs and cancer is very intriguing. IGFBP2 can bind to insulin-like growth factor (IGF) ligands and displays IGF-dependent growth inhibitory effects on many cell types. On the other hand, IGFBP2 is capable of stimulating growth of certain cancer cells, and is overexpressed in many cancer patients and its expression is correlated with cancer progression. Here we sought to study the role of IGFBP2 in regulation of the activity of normal HSCs. We showed that IGFBP2 was expressed in differentiated hematopoietic cells and bone marrow stroma but not in HSCs. Consistent with its gene expression pattern, IGFBP2-/- HSCs had similar repopulation activity as their wild-type counterparts. By contrast, when we transplanted HSCs into IGFBP2-/- or wild-type recipient mice, we found decreased in vivo repopulation of HSCs in primary and secondary transplanted IGFBP2-/- recipients, suggesting that the environmental IGFBP2 positively supports HSC activity. Further co-culture of HSCs with IGFBP2-/- or wild-type bone marrow stromal cells indicated that IGFBP2 produced by bone marrow stroma indeed supports HSC expansion. Consistently, HSCs in IGFBP2-/- mice showed decreased frequency and cell cycling, and had upregulated expression of cell cycle inhibitors of p21, p16, and p19. To determine whether IGFBP2's effect on HSCs depends on IGF signaling, we compared the repopulation of donor cells deficient for the IGF type I receptor in wild-type and IGFBP2-/- recipients. These HSCs that are defective in IGF signaling still have decreased repopulation in IGFBP2-/- recipients, suggesting that the environmental effect of IGFBP2 on HSCs is independent of IGF signaling. To identify the functional domain of IGFBP2 in regulation of HSC activity, we constructed IGFBP2 with mutated RGD domain or deleted c-terminus and used the mutant IGFBP2 proteins in ex vivo culture of HSCs. We found that the c-terminus of IGFBP2 is essential to support HSC activity. We are currently in the process of identifying the potential receptor of IGFBP2 on HSCs. In summary, we found that IGFBP2 supports the cycling of normal HSCs, and this effect is independent of IGF signaling. Our study is important in revealing the relationship among environmental cues and cell fates of stem cells and opens up a new avenue in investigation of the roles of IGFBP2 in stem cells and cancer.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.