The hematopoietic system is an invaluable model both for understanding basic developmental biology and for developing clinically relevant cell therapies. Using highly purified cells and rigorous microarray analysis we have compared the expression pattern of three of the most primitive hematopoietic subpopulations in adult mouse bone marrow: long-term hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), short-term HSC, and multipotent progenitors. All three populations are capable of differentiating into a spectrum of mature blood cells, but differ in their self-renewal and proliferative capacity. We identified numerous novel potential regulators of HSC self-renewal and proliferation that were differentially expressed between these closely related cell populations. Many of the differentially expressed transcripts fit into pathways and protein complexes not previously identified in HSC, providing evidence for new HSC regulatory units. Extending these observations to the protein level, we demonstrate expression of several of the corresponding proteins, which provide novel surface markers for HSC. We discuss the implications of our findings for HSC biology. In particular, our data suggest that cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions are major regulators of long-term HSC, and that HSC themselves play important roles in regulating their immediate microenvironment.
Hematopoietic, or blood-forming, stem cells (HSC) are responsible for the continual replenishment of all blood cells throughout life. This ability to both renew themselves and give rise to expanded populations of differentiating and mature cells is a hallmark of stem cells and is therefore an area of intense research. The rarity of HSC as well as their location in the bone marrow environment has made it difficult to identify the genes that regulate these properties. The earliest stages of blood development begins with the long-term (LT) repopulating HSC that then differentiate into short-term (ST) repopulating HSC and non-self renewing multipotent progenitors (MPP). The authors investigated the gene expression differences in these highly purified populations that differ mainly in their capacity to self renew, and identified a number of genes specific to each of these populations. Intriguingly, many of these genes code for proteins that are involved in cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions that were not previously identified on these populations. These novel discoveries will, together with future experiments, enhance our understanding of the basic biology of stem cells and their clinical uses.