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Exp Hematol. 2001 Sep;29(9):1125-34.

HOXB4 overexpression mediates very rapid stem cell regeneration and competitive hematopoietic repopulation.

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  • 1Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



Hox transcription factors have emerged as important regulators of hematopoiesis. In particular, we have shown that overexpression of HOXB4 in mouse bone marrow can greatly enhance the level of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) regeneration achieved at late times (> 4 months) posttransplantation. The objective of this study was to resolve if HOXB4 increases the rate and/or duration of HSC regeneration, and also to see if this enhancement was associated with impaired production of end cells or would lead to competitive reconstitution of all compartments.


Retroviral vectors were generated with the GFP reporter gene +/- HOXB4 to enable the isolation and direct tracking of transduced cells in culture or following transplantation. Stem cell recovery was measured by limit dilution assay for long-term competitive repopulating cells (CRU).


HOXB4-overexpressing cells have enhanced growth in vitro, as demonstrated by their rapid dominance in mixed cultures and their shortened population doubling time. Furthermore, HOXB4-transduced cells have a marked competitive repopulating advantage in vivo in both primitive and mature compartments. CRU recovery in HOXB4 recipients was extremely rapid, reaching 25% of normal by 14 days posttransplant or some 80-fold greater than control transplant recipients, and attaining normal numbers by 12 weeks. Mice transplanted with even higher numbers of HOXB4-transduced CRU regenerated up to but not beyond the normal CRU levels.


HOXB4 is a potent enhancer of primitive hematopoietic cell growth, likely by increasing self-renewal probability but without impairing homeostatic control of HSC population size or the rate of production and maintenance of mature end cells.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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