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Blood. 1997 May 15;89(10):3624-35.

A role for the Wnt gene family in hematopoiesis: expansion of multilineage progenitor cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Oncology, Genentech, Inc, South San Francisco, CA 94080, USA.


The microenvironment is a key regulator of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and is a likely source of extracellular factors that control stem cell fate. A better understanding of these microenvironmental factors may come from investigations of developmental cell fate determination in which the critical roles of cell-cell interactions of multipotential cells have been shown. The Wnt gene family is known to regulate the cell fate and cell-cell interactions of multipotential cells in a variety of tissues. Expression of Wnts and of their putative receptors encoded by murine homologs of the Drosophila frizzled gene in hematopoietic tissues was examined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Wnt-5a and Wnt-10b were expressed in day-11 murine yolk sac, day-14 fetal liver, and fetal liver AA4+ cells. The expression profiles of four murine frizzled homologs, Mfz3-7, were nearly identical to that of Wnt-5a and Wnt-10b. Notably, Wnt-10b was expressed in the fetal liver AA4+ Sca+ c-kit+ flASK) HSC population. A role for Wnts in HSC fate determination was studied by treatment of HSC populations in culture with soluble WNT proteins. The addition of conditioned media from cells transfected with Wnt-1, Wnt-5a, or Wnt-10b cDNAs to cultures of flASK cells stimulated a sevenfold, eightfold, and 11-fold expansion in cell number, respectively, relative to control media. Removal of WNT-5a from this media by immunodepletion depleted the stimulatory activity from the media, whereas addition of a partially purified WNT-5a stimulated a fivefold expansion relative to control cells. Transduction of flASK cells with a retrovirus bearing a Wnt-5a cDNA enhanced proliferation. We conclude that WNTs stimulate the survival/proliferation of hematopoietic progenitors, demonstrating that WNTs comprise a novel class of hematopoietic cell regulators.

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