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Genes Dev. 1999 Oct 15;13(20):2691-703.

Functional antagonism of the Polycomb-Group genes eed and Bmi1 in hemopoietic cell proliferation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of Hemopoietic Stem Cells, Clinical Research Institute of Montréal, Montréal, Québec H2W 1R7, Canada.


The murine Polycomb-Group (PcG) proteins Eed and Bmi1 govern axial patterning during embryonic development by segment-specific repression of Hox gene expression. The two proteins engage in distinct multimeric complexes that are thought to use a common molecular mechanism to render the regulatory regions of Hox and other downstream target genes inaccessible to transcriptional activators. Beyond axial patterning, Bmi1 is also involved in hemopoiesis because a loss-of-function allele causes a profound decrease in bone marrow progenitor cells. Here, evidence is presented that is consistent with an antagonistic function of eed and Bmi1 in hemopoietic cell proliferation. Heterozygosity for an eed null allele causes marked myelo- and lymphoproliferative defects, indicating that eed is involved in the negative regulation of the pool size of lymphoid and myeloid progenitor cells. This antiproliferative function of eed does not appear to be mediated by Hox genes or the tumor suppressor locus p16(INK4a)/p19(ARF) because expression of these genes was not altered in eed mutants. Intercross experiments between eed and Bmi1 mutant mice revealed that Bmi1 is epistatic to eed in the control of primitive bone marrow cell proliferation. However, the genetic interaction between the two genes is cell-type specific as the presence of one or two mutant alleles of eed trans-complements the Bmi1-deficiency in pre-B bone marrow cells. These studies thus suggest that hemopoietic cell proliferation is regulated by the relative contribution of repressive (Eed-containing) and enhancing (Bmi1-containing) PcG gene complexes.

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