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Lab Invest. 2012 Aug;92(8):1129-39. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2012.81. Epub 2012 May 21.

Control of human hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell migration by the extracellular matrix protein Slit3.

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Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Sanquin Research and Landsteiner Laboratory, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Patients whose hematopoietic system is compromised by chemo- and/or radiotherapy require transplantation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) to restore hematopoiesis. Successful homing of transplanted HSPCs to the bone marrow (BM) largely depends on their migratory potential, which is critically regulated by the chemokine CXCL12. In this study, we have investigated the expression and function of Slit proteins and their corresponding Roundabout (Robo) receptors in human HSPC migration. Slit proteins are extracellular matrix proteins that can modulate the (chemoattractant-induced) migration of mature leukocytes. We show that mRNAs for all Slits (Slit1-3) are expressed in primary BM stroma and BM-derived endothelial and stromal cell lines, but not in CD34⁺ HSPCs. Human CD34⁺ HSPCs expressed mRNAs for all Robos (Robo1-4), but only the Robo1 protein was detected on their cell surface. Functionally, Slit3 treatment increased the in vivo homing efficiency of CD34⁺ HSPCs to the BM in NOD/SCID mice, whereas Slit3-exposed HSPC migration in vitro was inhibited. These effects do not appear to result from modulated CXCL12 responsiveness as CXCR4 expression, CXCL12-induced actin polymerization or the basal and CXCL12-induced adhesion to fibronectin or BM-derived endothelial cells of CD34⁺ HSPC were not altered by Slit3 exposure. However, we show that Slit3 rapidly reduced the levels of active RhoA in HL60 cells and primary CD34⁺ HSPC, directly affecting a pathway involved in actin cytoskeleton remodeling and HSPC migration. Together, our results support a role for Slit3 in human HSPC migration in vitro and homing in vivo and might contribute to the design of future approaches aimed at improving transplantation efficiency of human CD34⁺ HSPCs.

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