The Growth Factor Independence (Gfi) zinc finger transcription factors play essential roles in hematopoiesis, differentially activating and repressing transcriptional programs required for hematopoietic lineage specification. In mammals, Gfi1 regulates hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) and lymphoid populations, while Gfi1b is required for megakaryocyte and erythroid development (van der Meer, et al. 2010 Leukemia 11:1834–43). In zebrafish, gfi1.1 plays an essential role in primitive hematopoiesis, preserving primitive HSC populations and regulating the erythroid-myeloid balance (Wei, et al. 2008 Cell Res. 6:677–85). However, little is known about the role of gfi1.1 in definitive hematopoiesis or about the role of additional hematopoietic gfi family members in zebrafish. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of an additional zebrafish gfi family transcription factor, gfi1.2b. We compare and contrast gfi1.1 and gfi1.2b, showing that they are highly expressed in the intermediate cell mass (ICM) and aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM), the respective sites of primitive and definitive hematopoiesis in zebrafish. Using antisense morpholino oligos (MO), whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH) and fluorescent activated cell sorting (FACS) of transgenic reporter fish, we demonstrate that gfi1.1 and gfi1.2b have distinct, essential roles in preserving primitive and definitive HSC populations, respectively. Loss of gfi1.1 specifically silences expression of scl and gata-1, markers of primitive HSC and erythroid progenitors. Conversely, loss of gfi1.2b silences expression of Tg(cd41:eGFPlo) cells, indicating an essential role for gfi1.2b in preserving definitive hematopoietic progenitors (Ma, et al. 2011 Blood 118:289–297). Consistent with the discrete roles of gfi1.1 and gfi1.2b in primitive and definitive lineages, knockdown of gfi1.2b silences lymphocyte rag-1 expression in the developing thymus, while knockdown of gfi1.1 has no effect on the thymic lymphocyte population. gfi1.1 and gfi1.2b have overlapping roles in erythropoiesis, as loss of either gfi factor reduces erythrocyte populations, while loss of both gfi paralogs results in a more profound silencing of erythrocytes. We further demonstrate that loss of gata-1 reduces gfi1.1 expression and silences gfi1.2b, suggesting that gata-1 plays an essential role in regulating the transcription of both genes. Together, these studies demonstrate that gfi1.1 and gfi1.2b have distinct and overlapping roles in zebrafish hematopoiesis and establish a new paradigm for the regulation of primitive and definitive hematopoietic lineages by gfi transcription factors.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.