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Immunity. 2008 Jul 18;29(1):57-67. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2008.04.023.

The signaling protein Wnt4 enhances thymopoiesis and expands multipotent hematopoietic progenitors through beta-catenin-independent signaling.

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  • 1Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer and, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.


Despite studies based on deletion or activation of intracellular components of the canonical Wingless related (Wnt) pathway, the role of Wnts in hematolymphopoiesis remains controversial. Using gain-of-function and loss-of-function models, we found that Wnt4 differentially affected diverse subsets of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Bone-marrow and thymic Lin(-)Sca1(+)Kit(hi) cells (LSKs) were the key targets of Wnt4. In adult mice, Wnt4-induced expansion of Flt3(+) bone-marrow LSKs (lymphoid-primed multipotent progenitors) led to a sizeable accumulation of the most immature thymocyte subsets (upstream of beta-selection) and a major increase in thymopoiesis. Conversely, Wnt4(-/-) neonates showed low frequencies of bone-marrow LSKs and thymic hypocellularity. We provide compelling evidence that Wnt4 activates noncanonical (beta-catenin-independent) signaling and that its effects on hematopoietic cells are mainly non-cell-autonomous. Our work shows that Wnt4 overexpression has a unique ability to expand Flt3(+) LSKs in adults and demonstrates that noncanonical Wnt signaling regulates thymopoiesis.

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