Fanconi Anemia (FA) is a rare, recessively heritable disorder with prominent failure of hematopoiesis. The physiologic role of FA proteins has not been fully resolved to date. While several existing model systems delineate its role in DNA damage response caused by alkylating agents, aldehydes, and inflammatory cytokines, all rely on experimental induction. We previously demonstrated the in utero onset of hematopoietic failure in mice with genetic disruption of Fancc. Herein, we found significant deficits in the fetal liver (FL) hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) pool in Fancd2 mice. Both AA4.1+ Sca-1+ Lin- expressing progenitors (ASL) and CD48- CD150+ Lin- Sca-1+ (SLAM) cells were decreased in frequency in Fancd2-/- versus WT FL. Similarly, we observed a significant decrease in progenitor colony formation and deficits in primary and secondary transplantation among Fancd2-/- FL compared to WT. Fancd2-/- FL cells were characteristically sensitive to mitomycin C and had significantly fewer SLAM cells in the G0 phase of cell cycle and elevated p21 expression, indicating canonical P53 activation. Consistent with prior reports by other groups on embryonic stem cells and our own Fancc-/- FL studies, we found neither exaggerated frequency of apoptotic cells, nor transcriptional induction of Puma or Noxa. We hypothesized that the observed deficits in developmental HSPC pool expansion reflect replication-associated stress. At the transcriptional level, we found activation of the DNA damage response via Rad51 and Prkdc, corroborated by immunofluorescent imaging of Rad51 foci as well as comet assays in FL cells. Next, we tested P38 MAPK as a stress response previously found to confer repopulation deficits in postnatal BM failure among Fancc and Fanca mice; here, our experiments revealed baseline (unprovoked) activation of phospho-p38 and rescue of Fancd2-/- progenitor colony formation using a pharmacological inhibitor, SB203580. Results were further strengthened by transplantation, revealing increased Fancd2-/- donor chimerism after in vivo administration of SB203580. The gains in donor chimerism persisted even after cessation of drug administration. These results suggest that replication-associated stress in the rapidly cycling fetal Fancd2-/- HSPC pool evokes a cellular stress response that constrains physiological expansion. Our work emphasizes the prenatal onset of hematopoietic failure and reveals pharmacological rescue by inhibition of constitutively active P38 MAPK. Furthermore, FA fetal hematopoiesis is an original model of unprovoked hematopoietic failure that allows the study of physiologic role of FA proteins in HSPC.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.