Activation of developmental signaling pathways in hematopoietic stem cell regeneration
The homeostatic hematopoietic stem cell compartment is comprised of quiescent long term self renewing stem cells and cycling short term stem cells with finite renewal potential. To study the molecular mechanisms governing self renewal of hematopoietic cells we must force them to enter the cell cycle and proliferate. One approach to accomplish this goal is to damage the hematopoietic compartment with ionizing radiation or cytotoxic chemotherapy. Such injuries ablate mature blood cells and drive the primitive stem cells into cycle. I have elected to use a simple model of hematopoietic damage and regeneration to study the molecular mechanisms controlling self renewal in hematopoietic stem cells. At the beginning of this project it was unclear whether the signaling pathways which homeostatically control self renewal are utilized during injury repair. In particular, there is very little understanding of the signals required for regeneration after radiation damage. We hypothesized extracellular signal transduction pathways provided by the microenvironment are critical mediators of the stem cell repair process. To address these topics and extend the previous work generated in our laboratory, I chose to pursue a candidate approach focusing on the Wnt and Notch developmental signaling pathways.
In order to examine the activation and requirement for each signaling cascade after radiation and chemotherapy damage we used a combination of loss of function and reporter mouse models. To this end, we have conducted the majority of experiments for the Wnt project in animals deficient in beta-catenin, the key transcription factor required in the pathway. Our investigations revealed the Wnt pathway is turned on within regenerating stem cells and loss of beta-catenin impairs regeneration of the stem cell compartment after both radiation and chemotherapy injury.
Using a Transgenic Notch Reporter mouse to investigate the role of Notch signaling following hematopoietic damage we determined the Notch pathway is also activated during regeneration. Furthermore, using a live imaging approach we discovered Notch activated cells change their fate choice during regeneration. To determine if Notch gain of function provides radio-protection we infected stem cells with an active form of Notch prior to radiation and then scored self renewal potential in vitro. This led us to the conclusion that Notch gain of function can provide a self renewal benefit to irradiated hematopoietic stem cells.
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