Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) must achieve a balance between quiescence and activation that fulfils the demands for hematopoiesis without compromising long-term maintenance of HSCs. DEK, a chromatin architectural factor, is involved in chromatin remodeling, transcriptional regulation and DNA replication, and is implicated in genetic and epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Here, we identified that DEK is a critical regulator of HSCs quiescence. Deletion of DEK in mice resulted in abnormal hematopoiesis with an obvious decreased HSC pool size (~3700 to ~1700 cells/mouse), associated with apparent reduction in the proportion of HSCs in G0 phase as compared to control HSCs (~72% to ~57%). As shown by serial bone marrow transplantation and competitive repopulation assays, deletion of DEK impaired the self-renewal capacity of HSCs. Mechanistically, deficiency of DEK in HSC altered chromatin accessibility landscape, resulting in increased transcription of activation-specific genes (including Akt1/2,Ccnb2, and Rps6) and decreased transcription of quiescence-specific genes (including p21 and Gata2), leading to excessively activated Akt-mTOR signaling and elevated metabolism of HSC. Targeting the Akt-mTOR pathway efficiently abrogated the impaired quiescence and the increased metabolism of HSC in DEK-deficient mice, and partially rescued the long-term functions of HSC. Further, DEK regulated chromatin accessibility of HSC by recruiting the co-repressor NCoR1 to repress acetylation of histone 3 at lysine 27. Collectively, our findings revealed crucial functions of DEK in HSC quiescence maintenance and disclosed a new link between chromatin remodelers, epigenetic modification, gene transcription, and HSC homeostasis.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.