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Blood. 2012 Apr 5;119(14):3226-35. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-10-355826. Epub 2012 Feb 3.

Hematopoietic stem cells: to be or Notch to be.

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Program in Cancer Research, Institut Mar Investigacions Mèdiques, Hospital del Mar, Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona, Dr Aiguader 88, Barcelona, Spain.


Notch is a well-conserved signaling pathway and its function in cell fate determination is crucial in embryonic development and in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis during adult life. Notch activation depends on cell-cell interactions that are essential for the generation of cell diversity from initially equivalent cell populations. In the adult hematopoiesis, Notch is undoubtedly a very efficient promoter of T-cell differentiation, and this has masked for a long time the effects of Notch on other blood lineages, which are gradually being identified. However, the adult hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) remains mostly refractory to Notch intervention in experimental systems. In contrast, Notch is essential for the generation of the HSCs, which takes place during embryonic development. This review summarizes the knowledge accumulated in recent years regarding the role of the Notch pathway in the different stages of HSC ontology from embryonic life to fetal and adult bone marrow stem cells. In addition, we briefly examine other systems where Notch regulates specific stem cell capacities, in an attempt to understand how Notch functions in stem cell biology.

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