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Nat Cell Biol. 2011 Jan;13(1):13-21. doi: 10.1038/ncb2135. Epub 2010 Dec 12.

LIF-independent JAK signalling to chromatin in embryonic stem cells uncovered from an adult stem cell disease.

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  • 1Department of Haematology and Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0XY, UK.


Activating mutations in the tyrosine kinase Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) cause myeloproliferative neoplasms, clonal blood stem cell disorders with a propensity for leukaemic transformation. Leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) signalling through the JAK-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) pathway enables self-renewal of embryonic stem (ES) cells. Here we show that mouse ES cells carrying the human JAK2V617F mutation were able to self-renew in chemically defined conditions without cytokines or small-molecule inhibitors, independently of JAK signalling through the STAT3 or phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase pathways. Phosphorylation of histone H3 tyrosine 41 (H3Y41) by JAK2 was recently shown to interfere with binding of heterochromatin protein 1α (HP1α). Levels of chromatin-bound HP1α were lower in JAK2V617F ES cells but increased following inhibition of JAK2, coincident with a global reduction in histone H3Y41 phosphorylation. JAK2 inhibition reduced levels of the pluripotency regulator Nanog, with a reduction in H3Y41 phosphorylation and concomitant increase in HP1α levels at the Nanog promoter. Furthermore, Nanog was required for factor independence of JAK2V617F ES cells. Taken together, these results uncover a previously unrecognized role for direct signalling to chromatin by JAK2 as an important mediator of ES cell self-renewal.

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