Bone marrow failure is a significant complication of many chronic infections, which affect a third of the world's population. The inflammatory cytokine interferon-gamma (IFNy) contributes to bone marrow failure syndromes by activating hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and impairing their self-renewal. IFNy upregulation during many chronic infections such as tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis B directly depletes hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The mechanisms by which IFNy drives the loss of quiescence and ultimate exhaustion of HSCs remain poorly understood, but may be related to changes in the interaction between HSCs and the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment, or BM niche. Current evidence suggests that quiescent HSCs reside predominantly in the vascular niche, where the production of stem cell factor (SCF) from endothelial cells and CXCL12 from perivascular CXCL12 abundant reticular (CAR) stromal cells are critical for maintaining their quiescence. The goal of our work was to determine whether IFNy signaling alters HSC interactions within the niche.

We performed transcriptomic analysis of IFNy-stimulated HSCs and focused on changes in cell-surface expressed genes that may influence HSC-niche interactions. Our analysis revealed Bone Marrow Stromal Antigen 2 (BST2) as the only surface protein upregulated on HSCs upon 24-hour IFNy stimulation. To study the effects of BST2 on HSC-niche interactions, we performed intravital imaging using two reporter mouse models: CXCL12-GFP reporter mice in which CAR cells are labeled with GFP, and CXCL12-GFP Krt18-Cre LSL-tdTomato dual reporter mice in which CAR cells are labelled with GFP and HSCs are labeled with tdTomato. After exogenously labeling and transferring HSCs into CXCL12-GFP mice or endogenously labeling HSCs in the CXCL12-GFP Krt18-Cre LSL-tdTomato mice, we observed that HSCs stimulated with IFNy were significantly distanced from CAR cells compared to pre-treated controls. These findings are consistent with other reports that chemotherapeutic and inflammatory stress disrupts HSC interactions with the niche and promotes HSC migration. Conversely, we observed no change in HSC distancing from CAR cells after IFNy stimulation of IFNy-receptor deficient HSCs, suggesting that the observed HSC displacement was due to a cell autonomous mechanism. These changes were not due to a loss of CXCL12 receptor (CXCR4) expression or disrupted capacity of HSCs to migrate towards CXCL12. Interestingly, Intravital imaging using BST2-deficient HSCs revealed that BST2 KO HSCs do not re-localize from CAR cells during IFNy stimulation. Increased BST2 expression has been linked to the migration, adhesion and metastasis of various cancer cells and we explored whether it could serve a similar role in protein binding in HSCs. Using in vitro plate binding assays, we found that IFNy-treatment promoted increased HSC binding to E-selectin via BST2, as well as increased HSC homing to the bone marrow, a property that is dependent on E-selectin binding.

Finally, to determine whether BST2 affects IFNy-dependent HSC activation we performed cell cycle analysis of WT and BST2 KO HSCs. We discovered that the loss of BST2 protects against HSC activation during Mycobacterium avium infection. Furthermore, HSC depletion during chronic infection was mitigated in BST2 KO mice.

Our data identifies BST2 as a key protein that influences niche relocalization and activation in response to inflammatory stimulation. This study expands our understanding of factors that contribute to HSC activation and loss of quiescence. These findings could shed light on novel therapeutic interventions for patients who develop pancytopenia or bone marrow failure due to chronic inflammation.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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