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Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2003 Jan-Feb;30(1):55-69.

Mouse Pum1 and Pum2 genes, members of the Pumilio family of RNA-binding proteins, show differential expression in fetal and adult hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stem Cell Research Consortium, University of Miami School of Medicine, FL 33136, USA.


Self-renewal is the common functional property of all types of stem cells and is thought to be regulated by unknown conserved intrinsic and extrinsic molecular mechanisms. Recently, an evolutionarily conserved Pumilio family of RNA-binding proteins that regulate asymmetric cell division was found to be essential for stem cell maintenance and self-renewal in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. Based on conserved function in invertebrates and lower vertebrates it was recently proposed that an ancestral function of Pumilio proteins is to support proliferation and self-renewal of stem cells. This raises an interesting possibility that Pumilio could be part of evolutionarily conserved intrinsic molecular mechanism that regulates self-renewal of mammalian stem cells. Here we describe cloning and comparative sequence analysis of Pum1 and Pum2 genes, mouse members of the Pumilio family, and for the first time demonstrate expression of Pumilio genes in mammalian hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Pum1 and Pum2 share 51 and 55% overall similarity with the fly Pum, whereas their RNA-binding domains show a very high degree of evolutionary conservation (86-88% homology). Both genes are expressed in a variety of tissues suggesting that they have widespread function. During blood cell development Pum1 and Pum2 exhibit differential expression in cell populations enriched for HSC and progenitors. Both genes are highly transcribed in populations of adult HSC (Rho-123(low)Sca-1(+)c-kit(+)Lin(-) cells). In a more heterogeneous population of HSC (Lin(-)Sca-1(+)) and in progenitors (Lin(-)Sca-1(-) cells) Pum1 is not transcribed, whereas Pum2 expression is significantly down-regulated. Ongoing in vitro and in vivo functional analysis of mouse Pumilio genes will help to elucidate the biological role of mammalian Pumilio genes and determine whether they play any role in maintenance of mammalian stem cells, such as HSC.

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