Identification of Novel Regulators in Hematopoiesis: Roles for Gfer in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Proliferation and CaMKK2 in the Restriction of Granulopoiesis

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Means, Anthony R.

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Hematopoiesis is the process in which billions of blood cells are produced on a daily basis, and is vital for sustaining life. This process is tightly regulated by a dynamic balance between hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal and differentiation, and maintenance of this balance is of critical importance as dysregulation of HSCs can lead to hematopoietic deficiencies or malignancies such as leukemogenesis. While the signaling mechanisms that regulate HSC homeostasis and function are not well understood, our previous studies have identified a calcium/calmodulin (CaM)-dependent protein kinase, CaMKIV, that is intrinsically required for regulating normal proliferation and survival in HSCs. These findings suggest not only the importance of calcium-initiated pathways including CaMKIV-dependent signaling in hematopoietic cells, but also the potential for other calcium/CaM-dependent effector proteins such as other CaM-kinases to be involved in regulating HSCs and hematopoiesis.

The first major section of this dissertation work presented herein was based on the usage of RNA interference (RNAi) technology to specifically deplete HSCs of growth factor erv1-like (Gfer), a gene whose expression appeared to be absent in CaMKIV null HSCs based on comparative microarray analysis with wild-type HSCs, and seemed a potential target of CaMKIV. We showed that depletion of Gfer in HSCs compromised their in vivo engraftment potential and triggered a hyper-proliferative response that led to their exhaustion. We further assessed Gfer-depleted HSCs by using microscopy techniques and found that these cells possessed significantly reduced levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor (CDKI) p27kip1. In contrast, ectopic over-expression of Gfer in HSCs resulted in significantly elevated total and nuclear p27kip1. We next performed immunoprecipitation-immunoblot analyses to determine whether alteration of Gfer levels would affect p27kip1's binding with its inhibitor, the COP9 signalosome subunit jun activation-domain binding protein 1 (Jab1), that would subsequently lead to its ubiquitination, and determined that depletion of Gfer resulted in enhanced binding of p27kip1 to Jab1. Conversely, over-expression of Gfer resulted in its enhanced binding to Jab1 and inhibition of the Jab1-p27kip1 interaction. Furthermore, normalization of p27kip1 in Gfer-KD HSCs rescued their in vitro proliferation deficits. These results provide evidence for a novel Gfer-Jab1-p27kip1 pathway present in HSCs that functions to restrict abnormal proliferation.

The second major section of this dissertation work describes our studies of a CaMKIV kinase, CaMKK2, and its role in HSCs and hematopoietic development. These studies were largely based on the usage of mice genetically ablated for the Camkk2 gene in the germline. Herein, we identified a role for CaMKK2 in the restriction of granulocytic fate commitment and differentiation of myeloid progenitor cells. We performed bone marrow transplantation studies and discovered that engraftment by Camkk2-/- donor cells resulted in the increased production of mature granulocytes in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. Similarly, we used fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to determine that Camkk2-/- mice possessed elevated numbers of common myeloid progenitor cells, and exhibited an accelerated granulopoietic phenotype in the bone marrow. Expression of ectopic CaMKK2 in Camkk2-/- common myeloid progenitors was sufficient to rescue aberrant granulocyte differentiation, and when over-expressed in 32Dcl3 cells was also sufficient to impede granulocyte differentiation in a kinase activity-dependent manner. Collectively, our results reveal a novel role for CaMKK2 as an inhibitor of granulocytic fate commitment and differentiation in early myeloid progenitors.

While our original intent was to identify and link a downstream target and upstream kinase to CaMKIV in HSCs, our results ultimately did not suggest that Gfer or CaMKK2 function in the same pathway in HSCs as discussed in the following chapters. Nonetheless, our findings represent a considerable advance in identifying and characterizing the functions of two novel regulators, Gfer and CaMKK2, that are important for HSC proliferation and the commitment and early differentiation steps of granulopoiesis, respectively.





Teng, Ellen Chao (2011). Identification of Novel Regulators in Hematopoiesis: Roles for Gfer in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Proliferation and CaMKK2 in the Restriction of Granulopoiesis. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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