The Notch pathway controls the generation of different cell types in most tissues including blood, and dysregulation of this pathway is strongly associated with oncogenic processes. In many systems, Notch is also required for the maintenance of the stem cell populations. However, in the adult hematopoietic system this link between Notch and stemness has not been established. Instead, work of several groups, including ours, has clearly demonstrated that Notch has a prominent role in the generation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) during embryonic development. Although the first wave of blood cells appears in the mouse embryo around day 7.5 of development and is independent of Notch function, embryonic HSC are formed around day 10 of development from endothelial-like progenitors that reside in the embryonic aorta surrounded by the gonad and mesonephros, also called AGM region. By analyzing different Notch pathway mutant mouse embryos, we have demonstrated the involvement of the Jagged1-Notch1-GATA2 axis in this event. However, the formal demonstration that Notch regulates the GATA2 gene during HSC generation is still lacking. We have now found that GATA2 is a direct Notch target in vivo during embryonic HSC generation. However, whereas Notch positively activates GATA2 transcription in the HSC precursors, it simultaneously activates hes1 transcription, which acts a repressor of the same GATA2 gene. This finding directly implicates hes1 in the regulation of HSC development although further studies using loss-of-function mutant embryos are still needed. Altogether, our results indicate that both Notch and hes1 are required to finely regulate the levels, distribution, and likely the timing of GATA2 expression through an incoherent feed-forward loop. In parallel, we have identified other downstream targets of Notch in the AGM region by ChIP-on-chip and expression microarray analysis that we are currently characterizing.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.