Background: Lifelong hematopoiesis is maintained by cell differentiation in which signaling pathways and transcription factors coordinately induce step-wise maturation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) toward downstream effector cells. In addition, the organization of chromatin structure that creates accessible sites of target genes is also essential so as to ensure temporally and spatially adequate control of internal gene expression. Murine HSCs can be isolated with high efficiency using surface molecules including lineage-related markers, c-Kit, Sca-1, Flt3 and SLAM family proteins. However, even the highly enriched HSC fraction is still heterogeneous regarding differentiation potential, and how the HSC diversity reflects the heterogeneity of intrinsic gene-expression in HSCs is as-yet-unknown. We previously identified Special AT-rich Sequence Binding protein 1 (SATB1), a global chromatin regulator, as a lymphoid-related gene in the HSC differentiation (Satoh and Yokota et al. Immunity 2013). Indeed, SATB1 overexpression strongly enhanced both T and B lymphopoietic potential of murine HSCs whereas SATB1 deficiency caused malfunctions of HSCs in the lymphopoietic activity. Furthermore, another report showed that SATB1-deficient HSCs were less quiescent in transplanted recipients and more prone to differentiate preferentially to myeloid-erythroid lineages (Will et al. Nat Immunol 2013). These results suggested that SATB1 is likely indispensable not only for the lymphopoietic potential but also for the integrity of HSCs. Here, to better understand the mechanism how SATB1 influences homeostatic HSC functions in adult bone marrow (BM), we have developed a new mouse model in which SATB1 expression can be precisely monitored along the HSC differentiation.

Methods: The Tomato gene, coding a red fluorescent protein, was knock-in to the coding region of endogenous Satb1 gene. The heterozygous SATB1/Tomato knock-in mice in which one Satb1 allele was replaced with the Tomato were used to sort HSCs in adult BM. The sorted cells were evaluated for the differentiation potential with methylcellulose colony assays and co-cultures with MS5 stromal cells. Further, the long-term reconstitution ability was evaluated by transplantation to lethally irradiated mice. To obtain transcriptome information, total RNA was isolated from SATB1/Tomato- and SATB1/Tomato+ HSCs, and then next-generation sequencing was performed. The data were analyzed with the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software.

Results: We defined Lin- Sca1+ c-KitHi (LSK) CD150+ Flt3- cells as HSCs, especially adopting FLT3- to exclude FLT3+ lymphoid-primed multipotent progenitors from our functional analyses. We found that the LSK CD150+ Flt3- fraction contains substantial number of SATB1/Tomato+ cells. While both SATB1/Tomato- and SATB1/Tomato+ HSCs produced numerous CFU-Mix and CFU-GM/G/M colonies, the latter were less potent to produce BFU-E. In co-culture with MS5 stromal cells that support B and myeloid lineages, the output of B lineage cells from SATB1+ HSCs was more robust than that of SATB1- HSCs. Upon transplantation, enhanced B-lineage engraftment was observed in the SATB1+ HSC-transplanted recipients. Interestingly, while the two types of HSCs showed obvious difference in the differentiation potential toward lymphoid or myeloid lineage, both HSCs reconstituted the LSK CD150+ Flt3- fraction that similarly contained SATB1/Tomato- and SATB1/Tomato+ cells. With the RNA-sequencing data of SATB1- and SATB1+ HSCs, biological pathway analyses revealed that the "Hematological System Development and Function" pathway was remarkably up-regulated in the SATB1+ HSCs. Among subcategories of the "Hematological System Development and Function" pathway, the "quantity of lymphocytes" pathway was increased whereas "quantity of myeloid cells" and "quantity of granulocytes" pathways were decreased.

Conclusion: We have developed a new mouse system that can be used to identify and isolate viable lymphoid-biased HSCs in the most primitive hematopoietic cell fraction of adult BM. While the SATB1- and SATB1+ HSCs differ genetically and functionally, both subtypes have displayed a self-renewal activity with mutual interconversion in transplanted recipients. These findings suggest that functional heterogeneity and variability within the HSC population is, at least in part, a manifestation of SATB1 expression.


Yokota:SHIONOGI & CO., LTD.: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.