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J Clin Invest. 2009 Dec;119(12):3519-29. doi: 10.1172/JCI40572.

Pivotal role for glycogen synthase kinase-3 in hematopoietic stem cell homeostasis in mice.

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Department of Medicine (Hematology-Oncology), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) homeostasis depends on the balance between self renewal and lineage commitment, but what regulates this decision is not well understood. Using loss-of-function approaches in mice, we found that glycogen synthase kinase-3 (Gsk3) plays a pivotal role in controlling the decision between self renewal and differentiation of HSCs. Disruption of Gsk3 in BM transiently expanded phenotypic HSCs in a betta-catenin-dependent manner, consistent with a role for Wnt signaling in HSC homeostasis. However, in assays of long-term HSC function, disruption of Gsk3 progressively depleted HSCs through activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This long-term HSC depletion was prevented by mTOR inhibition and exacerbated by betta-catenin knockout. Thus, GSK-3 regulated both Wnt and mTOR signaling in mouse HSCs, with these pathways promoting HSC self renewal and lineage commitment, respectively, such that inhibition of Gsk3 in the presence of rapamycin expanded the HSC pool in vivo. These findings identify unexpected functions for GSK-3 in mouse HSC homeostasis, suggest a therapeutic approach to expand HSCs in vivo using currently available medications that target GSK-3 and mTOR, and provide a compelling explanation for the clinically prevalent hematopoietic effects observed in individuals prescribed the GSK-3 inhibitor lithium.

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