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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 14;103(7):2184-9. Epub 2006 Feb 7.

Prion protein is expressed on long-term repopulating hematopoietic stem cells and is important for their self-renewal.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Nine Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Although the wild-type prion protein (PrP) is abundant and widely expressed in various types of tissues and cells, its physiological function(s) remain unknown, and PrP knockout mice do not exhibit overt and undisputed phenotypes. Here we showed that PrP is expressed on the surface of several bone marrow cell populations successively enriched in long-term (LT) hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) using flow cytometry analysis. Affinity purification of the PrP-positive and -negative fractions from these populations, followed by competitive bone marrow reconstitution assays, shows that all LT HSCs express PrP. HSCs from PrP-null bone marrow exhibited impaired self-renewal in serial transplantation of lethally irradiated mouse recipients both in the presence and absence of competitors. When treated with a cell cycle-specific myelotoxic agent, the animals reconstituted with PrP-null HSCs exhibit increased sensitivity to hematopoietic cell depletion. Ectopic expression of PrP in PrP-null bone marrow cells by retroviral infection rescued the defective hematopoietic engraftment during serial transplantation. Therefore, PrP is a marker for HSCs and supports their self-renewal.

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