Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) primarily reside in the bone marrow where signals
generated by stromal cells regulate their self-renewal, proliferation, and trafficking.
and perivascular stromal cells including endothelial cells
, CXCL12-abundant reticular (CAR) cells
, leptin-receptor positive stromal cells
, and nestin-GFP positive mesenchymal progenitors
have all been implicated in HSC maintenance. However, it is unclear if specific hematopoietic
progenitor cell (HPC) subsets reside in distinct niches defined by the surrounding
stromal cells and the regulatory molecules they produce. CXCL12 (stromal-derived factor-1,
SDF-1) regulates both HSCs and lymphoid progenitors and is expressed by all of these
stromal cell populations
. Here, we selectively deleted Cxcl12 from candidate niche stromal cell populations
and characterized the effect on HPCs. Deletion of Cxcl12 from mineralizing osteoblasts
has no effect on HSCs or lymphoid progenitors. Deletion of Cxcl12 from osterix-expressing
stromal cells, which includes CAR cells and osteoblasts, results in constitutive HPC
mobilization and a loss of B lymphoid progenitors, but HSC function is normal. Cxcl12
deletion in endothelial cells results in a modest loss of long-term repopulating activity.
Strikingly, deletion of Cxcl12 in nestin-negative mesenchymal progenitors using Prx1-Cre
is associated with a marked loss of HSCs, long-term repopulating activity, HSC quiescence,
and common lymphoid progenitors. These data suggest that osterix-expressing stromal
cells comprise a distinct niche that supports B lymphoid progenitors and retains HPC
in the bone marrow, while expression of CXCL12 from stromal cells in the perivascular
region, including endothelial cells and mesenchymal progenitors, support HSCs.
CXCL12 plays a crucial role in maintaining HSC function, including retention in the
, and repopulating activity
. To test the hypothesis that CXCL12 production by different stromal cell populations
has distinct effects on HSCs and lineage-committed HPC, we generated a floxed allele
of Cxcl12 (Cxcl12fl
) to conditionally delete Cxcl12 from candidate niche cells in the bone marrow (Suppl.
Fig. 2). Deletion of Cxcl12 in endothelial cells and mature osteoblasts was mediated
by the Tie2-Cre recombinase (Cre) and osteocalcin (Oc)-Cre transgenes, respectively.
To target Cxcl12 deletion in osteoprogenitors, we used the osterix (Osx)-Cre transgene,
which mediates efficient recombination in mature osteoblasts and osteoblast progenitors
. It also targets CAR cells, a perivascular stromal cell population implicated in
HSC and B lymphoid progenitor maintenance
. Finally, we used the Prx1-Cre transgene to target multipotent mesenchymal progenitors
in the appendicular skeleton. Prx1 is a transcription factor expressed early during
limb bud mesoderm development, and Prx1-Cre targets all cells derived from limb bud
. Lineage mapping studies were performed using a Cxcl12gfp
knock-in mouse to define CAR cells
. These studies showed that both the Osx- and Prx1-Cre transgenes efficiently targeted
recombination in mature osteoblasts, osteocytes, and CAR cells in long bones (Fig.
1a–d and Suppl. Fig 3).
Triple transgenic mice were generated containing one floxed Cxcl12 allele, one null
−), and a Cre-recombinase transgene. Total CXCL12 mRNA expression in the femoral bone
marrow of Oc- and Tie2-Cre-targeted mice was similar to that observed in control mice
(Fig. 1e). In contrast, CXCL12 mRNA expression was reduced by 70% in Osx-Cre-targeted
mice and nearly undetectable in Prx1-Cre-targeted mice. A similar decrease in CXCL12
protein levels was observed (Fig. 1f). To confirm Cxcl12 deletion in CAR cells, mice
and either the Osx- or Prx1-Cre transgenes, were generated (the Cxcl12gfp
allele is a null allele). Indeed, CXCL12 mRNA was nearly undetectable in CXCL12-GFPbright
CAR cells that were sorted from these mice (Fig. 1g). As expected, CXCL12 mRNA was
nearly undetectable in endothelial cells sorted from Tie2-Cre-targeted mice (Fig.
1h). Together these data suggest that, under basal conditions, the majority of CXCL12
is produced by CAR cells, while mature osteoblasts and endothelial cells are only
All conditional knockout mice exhibited normal peripheral blood counts and the same
relative percentage of granulocytes, monocytes, B cells, and T cells (Suppl. Table
1). However, bone marrow cellularity in femurs was reduced by approximately 50% in
both the Osx-Cre- and Prx1-Cre-targeted mice, which was due, in part, to a loss of
B cells. HPC subsets in the bone marrow were quantified by flow cytometry (Fig. 2a).
The number of c-Kit+ Sca+ Lineage− (KSL) cells, short-term HSCs, multipotent progenitors,
and myeloid-committed progenitors was similar in all mice with the exception of a
two-fold decrease in common myeloid progenitors in Prx1-Cre-targeted mice (Suppl.
Fig. 4). Loss of CXCL12 expression in endothelial cells or mature osteoblasts had
no effect on the number of phenotypic HSCs (Fig. 2 b–d). The frequency of phenotypic
HSCs in the bone marrow of Osx-Cre-targeted mice was comparable to control mice (data
not shown); however, since bone marrow cellularity was reduced, a modest decrease
in the absolute number of HSCs was observed. In contrast, a significant decrease in
both the frequency and absolute number of phenotypic HSCs in Prx1-Cre-targeted mice
was observed, with nearly undetectable dormant HSCs (Flk2− CD34− CD150+ CD48− KSL
cells). Consistent with these findings, competitive repopulation assays showed a significant
multi-lineage long-term repopulating defect using bone marrow from Prx1-Cre- but not
Osx-Cre-targeted mice (Fig. 3a–b). Despite the normal number of phenotypic HSCs, a
small, but significant, decrease in long-term repopulating activity also was observed
using Tie2-Cre-targeted bone marrow. Serial transplantation of bone marrow from Prx1-Cre-
or Tie2-Cre-targeted mice showed no further decrease in repopulating activity in secondary
recipients, suggesting that self-renewal capacity may be restored when HSCs are exposed
to a normal stromal microenvironment (Suppl. Fig. 5). Quiescence is a fundamental
property of HSCs, which is closely related to long-term repopulating activity
. Increased cycling of HSCs was observed in Prx1-Cre- but not Osx-Cre- or Tie2-Cre-targeted
cells. In contrast, increased cycling of more mature KSL progenitors was observed
in both Prx1-Cre- and Osx-Cre-targeted cells (Fig. 3c–d). Collectively, these data
show that CXCL12 production from Prx1-Cre-targeted stromal cells and, to a lesser
extent, endothelial cells is required for maintenance of HSC repopulating activity
and quiescence. Consistent with results from the companion paper by Ding et al., our
data suggest that CXCL12 production from mature osteoblasts and osteoblast precursors
is dispensable for HSC maintenance.
Since CXCL12 has been shown to play an important role in the retention of HPC within
, we next quantified HPCs in the blood and spleen. In Osx-Cre-targeted mice, the number
of colony-forming cells and KSL cells was increased in the blood and spleen, demonstrating
constitutive HPC mobilization (Fig. 3e–f and Suppl. Fig. 6). Interestingly, though
CXCL12 expression in the bone marrow is significantly lower, Prx1-Cre-targeted mice
displayed a similar magnitude of HPC mobilization. Thus, our data suggest that, although
CXCL12 production from Osx-Cre-targeted stromal cells is largely dispensable for HSC
maintenance, it is required for the efficient retention of HPCs in the bone marrow.
CXCL12 is required for normal B and T cell development
. Pre-pro-B cells are found in close association with CAR cells
, and ablation of CAR cells is associated with a loss of CLPs and pro-B cells
. Here, we show that deletion of Cxcl12 in mineralizing osteoblasts or endothelial
cells has no effect on CLPs, B lymphoid progenitors (BLPs), or pre-pro-B cells (Fig.
2e–h, Suppl. Figure 7). In contrast, Cxcl12 deletion in CAR cells using Osx-Cre results
in a marked loss of pre-pro B cells, and a trend towards a loss of BLP. However, CLPs
and earliest thymic progenitors (ETPs) in the thymus are normal. Deletion of Cxcl12
in Prx1-Cre-targeted stromal cells results in a similar phenotype but also results
in a marked loss of CLPs. In the companion paper, Ding et al show that deletion of
Cxcl12 in osteoblasts using Col2.3-Cre also results in a modest decrease in CLP and
lymphoid-primed multipotential progenitors (LMPP). Together, these data suggest that
CXCL12 production from CAR cells or osteoblast precursors, but not mineralizing osteoblasts
or endothelial cells, is required for the maintenance of B-lymphoid committed progenitors,
while CLP maintenance is supported by CXCL12 production from both endosteal osteoblasts
and a Prx1-Cre-targeted perivascular stromal cell population. The normal CLP in Osx-Cre-targeted
mice may be secondary to compensatory changes related to the severe loss of pre-pro-B
We next performed studies to define the stromal cell population(s) differentially
targeted by Prx1-Cre and Osx-Cre. We first considered the possibility that Prx1-Cre
may target endothelial cells in the bone marrow. However, we detected no tdTomato
expression in bone marrow endothelial cells from Prx1-Cre reporter mice (Fig. 4a–b).
Moreover, expression of CXCL12 mRNA from sorted CD31+ endothelial cells from Prx1-Cre-targeted
mice was comparable to control mice (Suppl. Fig. 8). Thus, loss of CXCL12 from bone
marrow endothelial cells does not account for the loss of HSCs in Prx1-Cre-targeted
We extended the lineage mapping studies to the CD45− lineage− PDGFRα+ Sca+ (PαS) cell
population, which is enriched for mesenchymal stem cells
. Whereas Osx-Cre did not target this cell population, approximately 50% of cells
were targeted by Prx1-Cre, including a subpopulation that expressed intermediate levels
of CXCL12 (Fig. 4c–e). To evaluate the mesenchymal progenitor activity of the Prx1-Cre-targeted
cells, we sorted Prx1-Cre-targeted (tdTomato+) and non-targeted PαS cells and assessed
their clonogenic capacity. All of the colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) activity
was contained with the Prx1-targeted PαS cell population, with greater than 10% of
these cells having CFU-F activity (Fig 4f–g). This compares to a CFU-F frequency of
approximately 4% in unselected PαS cells
and less than 1% in nestin-GFP+ stromal cells
. The Prx1-targeted PαS cells have osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation potential
in vitro, consistent with a mesenchymal stem cell phenotype (Fig 4h–i). RNA expression
profiling of Prx1-targeted PαS cells is notable for the lack of nestin
, or leptin receptor
, all of which have been used to mark stromal cells contributing to HSC maintenance
(Suppl. Table 2). Interestingly, other than moderate CXCL12 expression, these cells
do not express genes classically associated with HSC maintenance, including kit ligand
, though high expression of several matrix proteins (e.g., proteoglycan 4
) implicated in HPC regulation is present.
Collectively, these data suggest that distinct stromal cell niches in the bone marrow
exist that regulate specific HPC populations (Suppl. Fig. 1). Osterix-expressing stromal
cells comprise a niche that supports B lymphoid progenitors and retains HPC in the
bone marrow, while CXCL12 production from nestin− leptin receptor− mesenchymal progenitors
is required for HSC and CLP maintenance.
Targeting of the Cxcl12 locus was accomplished by conventional techniques. Conditional
knockouts were accomplished by interbreeding with Osx-Cre
, Oc-Cre mice
, and Cxcl12
. Lineage mapping was accomplished using Ai9
. All mice with the exception of Cxcl12gfp
mice were maintained on the C56Bl6/J background. Unless indicated otherwise, data
are presented as mean ± SEM and were analyzed with the Student's t-test, one-way ANOVA,
or two-way ANOVA.
With the exception of Cxcl12gfp
mice, all transgenic strains had been backcrossed at least 10 generations onto a C57BL/6
, and Ai9 (B6.Cg-Gt(ROSA)26Sortm9(CAG-tdTomato)Hze/J)
mice were obtained from The Jackson Laboratory. EIIa-Cre mice
were a gift from Monica Bessler (University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania). Oc-Cre
were a gift from Thomas Clemens (Johns Hopkins University, Maryland), and Cxcl12gfp
were a gift from Takashi Nagasawa (Kyoto University, Japan). Cxcl12+/− mice
were obtained through the RIKEN BioResource Center (Ibaraki, Japan). Mice were maintained
under standard pathogen free conditions according to methods approved by the Washington
University Animal Studies Committee.
Generation of Cxcl12fl
A floxed allele of Cxcl12 was generated containing LoxP sites flanking exon 2 of Cxcl12;
a third LoxP was inserted 3’ of the neomycin selection cassette (Suppl. Fig. 2). Generation
of targeted embryonic stem cells and blastocyst injections were performed as previously
. Excision of the neomycin cassette was accomplished through partial recombination
by intercrossing mice with mice expressing EIIa-Cre. Mice were genotyped using PCR
forward, 5’-CTACACCTCCTCTAGGTAAACCAGTCAGCC-3’; Cxcl12flox
Bone marrow transplantation
Bone marrow from WT Ly5.1/5.2-expressing mice was mixed at a 1:1 ratio with marrow
from experimental or control mice expressing the Ly5.2 locus. A total of 2 × 106 cells
injected retro-orbitally into lethally irradiated (1,000 cGy) WT Ly5.1-expressing
mice. Since Prx1 is expressed primarily in limb-bud derived long bones, only tibias
and femurs were used for transplant and other analyses.
Blood, bone marrow, spleen, and thymus analysis
Blood, bone marrow, and spleen cells and thymocytes were harvested using standard
techniques and quantified using a Hemavet automated cell counter (CDC Technologies).
Cells were stained by standard protocols with the following antibodies (eBiosciences
unless otherwise noted): Lineage analysis and chimerism was assessed using peridinin
chlorophyll protein complex (PerCP)-Cy5.5–conjugated Ly5.1 (A20, CD45.1), allophycocyanin
(APC)-conjugated Ly5.2 (104, CD45.2), and one or more of the following lineage markers:
APC-conjugated CD115 (AFS98, monocytes), fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated
Ly6C/G (RB6-8C5, Gr-1, myeloid), phycoerythrin (PE)-conjugated CD3e (145-2C11, T lymphocytes),
and APC-eFluor780–conjugated CD45R (RA3-6B2, B220, B lymphocytes).
For HSPC analysis, cells were stained with a cocktail of biotin-conjugated B220, TER-119,
CD3e, Gr1, and CD41 (MWReg30), PE-conjugated CD150 (TC15-12F12.2, Biolegend), PE-Cy7-conjugated
CD48 (HM48-1, BD Biosciences), PerCP-Cy5.5-conjugated Sca1 (D7), APC eFluor780-conjugated
c-kit (2B-8), FITC-conjugated CD34 (RAM34), APC-conjugated Flk2 (A2F10), eFluor450-conjugated
CD16/32 (93), and eFluor605NC-conjugated streptavidin. For HSC cell cycle staining,
cells were stained with the biotin-conjugated lineage panel, PE-conjugated CD150,
PE-Cy7-conjugated CD48, PerCP-Cy5.5-conjugated Sca, APC-conjugated c-kit, and APC-eFluor780-conjugated
streptavidin. Cells were then fixed using the Cytofix/Cytoperm kit (BD Biosciences),
stained with FITC-conjugated Ki-67 (B56, BD Biosciences), and resuspended in 1 mg/mL
of 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). Doublets were gated out using FSC vs. FSC-W.
Data were collected on a Gallios 10-color, 3-laser flow cytometer (Beckman Coulter).
Data were analyzed with FlowJo (Treestar).
For CLP/BLP analysis, bone marrow cells were stained with a cocktail of PE-Cy7-conjugated
B220, TER-119, CD3e, and Gr-1, APC-conjugated CD27 (LG.7F9), biotinylated IL-7Ra (gift
of Deepta Bhattacharya, Washington University), PE-conjugated Flk2, FITC-conjugated
Ly6D (49-H4, BD Biosciences), and eFluor450-conjugated streptavidin. CLP were defined
as B220- TER-119- CD3e- Gr-1- CD27+ IL-7Ra+ Flk2+ Ly6D- cells, and BLP were defined
as B220- TER-119- CD3e- Gr-1- CD27+ IL-7Ra+ Flk2+ Ly6D+ cells.
For Pre-pro B cell analysis, bone marrow cells were stained with APC-eFluor780-conjugated
B220, a cocktail of PerCP-Cy5.5-conjugated CD3e, CD11c (N418), and NK1.1 (PK136),
APC-conjugated IgM (II/4), eFluor450-conjugated IgD (11–26c), PE-Cy7-conjugated CD19
(eBio1D3), PE-conjugated CD43 (S7, BD Biosciences), and FITC-conjugated Ly6D (BD Biosciences).
Pre-Pro B cells were defined as B220+ CD3e− CD11c− NK1.1− IgM− IgD− CD19− CD43+ Ly6D+
For ETP analysis, thymocytes were stained using a cocktail of FITC-conjugated CD4
(RM4-5), CD8 (53-6.7), and CD11b (M1/70), a cocktail of PE-Cy7-conjugated B220, TER-119,
CD3e, and Gr-1, PE-conjugated CD44 (IM7), eFluor450-conjugated CD25 (PC61.5), and
APC-eFluor780-conjugated c-kit. ETP were defined as CD4− CD8− CD11b− B220− TER-119−
CD3e− Gr−1− CD44+ CD25− c-kit+ thymocytes.
Stromal cell analysis and sorting
To extract bone marrow stromal cells, intact bones were crushed in PBS by mortar and
pestle. Crushed fractions in PBS were collected and stored on ice. The bone chips
were digested using subjected to enzymatic digestion by collagenase type II (3mg/mL,
Worthington Biochemical) and dispase (4mg/mL, Roche) at 37°C for 45 minutes at 37°C
in a shaking water bath. Both crushed and digested fractions were pooled. Following
RBC lysis, endothelial cells were stained with APC-conjugated CD45 (30-F11), FITC-conjugated
lineage cocktail (CD3e, Gr-1, B220, and TER-119), and biotinylated anti-mouse CD31
(PECAM-1) followed by streptavidin PE. Dead cells were excluded using 7-AAD (EMD Biosciences).
Perivascular mesenchymal progenitor cells were stained with APC-eFluor780-conjugated
CD45 and APC-eFluor780-conjugated lineage cocktail, APC-conjugated Sca-1, biotinylated
CD140a (PDGRFα), and streptavidin Brilliant Violet 421 (Biolegend). FACS analyses
were performed using FACScan (BD Biosciences), LSRII (BD Biosciences), or Gallios
(Beckman Coulter) flow cytometers. Cell sorting was done on Reflection (iCyt) or Aria
(BD Biosciences) flow cytometers. RNA of sorted cells was extracted using NucleoSpin
RNA XS kit (Macherey-Nagel) per manufacture recommendations.
For total bone marrow RNA, femurs were flushed with 1 mL of Trizol (Invitrogen). RNA
was prepared according to manufacturer’s specification. One-step qRT-PCR was performed
using the TaqMan Universal PCR Master Mix (Applied Biosystems) using no template and
no RT controls. Data was collected on a 7300 Real-Time PCR System (Applied Biosystems).
Primers were: CXCL12 forward, 5’-GAGCCAACGTCAAGCATCTG-3’; CXCL12 reverse, 5’-CGGGTCAATGCACACTTGTC-3’;
CXCL12 dT-FAM/TAMRA probe, 5’-TCCAAACTGTGCCCTTCAGATTGTTGC-3’; β-actin forward, 5’-ACCAACTGGGACGATATGGAGAAGA-3’;
β-actin primer; and β-actin dT-VIC/TAMRA probe, 5′-AGCCATGTACGTAGCCATCCAGGCTG-3′.
Mice were lethally sedated and perfused with PBS followed by 4% paraformaldehyde.
Hind limbs were removed and post-fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde overnight at 4°C. Bones
were washed in water, decalcified in 14% EDTA pH 7.4, and cryoprotected in 30% sucrose
in PBS. Bones were then snap frozen in OCT using liquid nitrogen-cooled 2-methylbutane,
and blocks were sectioned at 7 µM. For lineage mapping, sections were washed in PBS
and mounted with Prolong Gold Antifade Reagent with DAPI (Invitrogen). Slides were
imaged using an ApoTome fluorescent microscope (Zeiss).
Colony-forming unit cell (CFU-C) assay
25,000 bone marrow cells or 50,000 spleen cells were plated in 2.75 ml methylcellulose
media (MethoCult 3434; Stemcell Technologies). 20 µL of whole peripheral blood was
RBC lysed and plated in methylcellulose. Duplicate cultures were incubated at 37°C
for 7 days, after which colonies containing at least 100 cells were counted in a blinded
Colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) assay
PDGFRα+ Sca+ cells were sorted by flow cytometry and directly plated on tissue culture
plates containing alpha MEM and 10% fetal bovine serum (Atlanta Biologicals). Media
exchanges were performed every 3–4 days for a total of 14 days, after which colonies
containing at least 50 cells were counted. On day 14, cells were harvested from the
cultures and replated in osteogenic or adipogenic media and cultured for an additional
14 days. Osteogenic media: alpha MEM with 10% fetal bovine serum, 50µM ascorbic acid
(Sigma) and 10µM of β-glycerophosphate (Sigma). Adipogenic media: alpha MEM with 10%
fetal bovine serum, 5µg/mL insulin, 100µM indomethacin, and 100nM dexamethasone. Osteoblast
differentiation was assessed using the Leukocyte Alkaline Phosphatase Kit (Sigma),
per manufacture’s recommendations. Adipocyte differentiation was assessed by staining
with Oil Red O, as reported previously
RNA expression profiling
PDGFRα+ Sca+ cells or CAR cells, pooled from 2–6 mice, were sorted directly into lysis
buffer and RNA was prepared using the RNA XS column kit (Macherey-Nagel, Bethlehem,
PA) according to the manufacturer’s directions. RNA was amplified using the NuGen
Ovation system (NuGen, San Carlos, CA), and hybridized to the Affymetrix MoGene 1.0
ST array. Data normalization was performed using the Robust Multichip Average (RMA)
algorithm. Submission of this RNA expression data to Gene Expression Omnibus is in
Significance was determined using Prism software (GraphPad). Unless otherwise stated,
statistical significance of differences was calculated using 1- or 2-way ANOVA. P-values
indicate the result of Bonferroni post-testing relative to Cxcl12f
l/− control mice unless other comparisons are explicitly shown. P-values less than
0.05 were considered significant. All data are presented as mean ± SEM.