DLK-1(delta-like 1) is a member of the EGF-like homeotic protein family whose expression is known to influence cell fate decisions through cell-cell interactions. It is also known to influence the differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in bone marrow. Recently, we reported the essential role of DLK-1 in B cell development, which showed that the absence of DLK-1 led to accumulation of the earliest B cell progenitors (pre-pro B cells or Fraction A (Fr A)) in bone marrow, an altered pattern of B cell development in the spleen, and an altered humoral immune response. The objective of this study was to determine whether alterations in the HSC compartment or the BMSC microenvironment contributed to Fr A accumulation in mdlk1−/− mice.
The mdlk1−/− and wild type bone marrow osteoblast and HSC compartments were analyzed by multicolor flow cytometry and in vitro methyl-cellulose colony forming cell assays. Bone marrow harvested from mdlk1−/− and wild type mice was assessed for BMSCs colony forming efficiency (CFU-F) and cultured. Supernatants from cultured BMSCs were analyzed by protein arrays. Since osteoblasts are an important component of the bone marrow microenvironment, OPN+CD45-TER119-ALP+ osteoblasts were identified in the bone marrow and quantified by flow cytometry. Finally, the femurs of mdlk1−/− and wild type mice were analyzed by micro-computed tomography (uCT) scanning.
Using flow cytometry, we observed no statistically significant changes in the HSC and progenitor populations in the absence of DLK-1 in mice at 4 and 16 weeks of age. The results of methyl-cellulose assay confirmed the findings of flow cytometry experiments and showed no statistically significant differences in the number of CFU-G, CFU-GM, and CFU-M of 4 and 16 week old mdlk1−/− mice as compared to wild-type control mice. However, significant alterations in the microenvironment of the mdlkl −/− were observed. CFU-F efficiency of mdlk1−/− bone marrow BMSC isolated from 4 week old mice was significantly decreased when compared to age-matched controls. Furthermore, the uCT scans showed the mineral density of the femoral bone significantly decreased in 4 week old mdlk1−/− mice and the number of osteoblast cells analyzed by flow cytometry was decreased by 10%. The analysis of BMSC supernatants revealed a striking down regulation of factors associated with osteoblast function and differentiation such as osteoactivin, PF-4, Follstatin-like 1, Frizzled-6, IGF-1, M-CSF, DKK-1 and others.
Our results indicate that accumulation of the earliest B cell progenitors with DLK-1 ablation is the result of multiple defects in the bone marrow microenvironment including decreased CFU-F, decreased number of osteoblasts, decreased bone mineral density or alterations in factors important for osteoblast function but not from increase in numbers of hematopoietic stem or progenitors cells. Our laboratory is investigating this further.
Pawelczyk:Baxter Inc.: currently employed by Baxter Inc. Other.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.