Rizo A, Dontje B, Vellenga E, de Haan G, Schuringa JJ
Blood 2008 Mar;111(5):2621-30
The polycomb group (PcG) gene BMI1 has been identified as one of the key epigenetic regulators of cell fates during different stages of development in multiple murine tissues. In a clinically relevant model, we demonstrate that enforced expression of BMI1 in cord blood CD34(+) cells results in long-term maintenance and self-renewal of human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Long-term culture-initiating cell frequencies were increased upon stable expression of BMI1 and these cells engrafted more efficiently in NOD-SCID mice. Week 5 cobblestone area-forming cells (CAFCs) were replated to give rise to secondary CAFCs. Serial transplantation studies in NOD-SCID mice revealed that secondary engraftment was only achieved with cells overexpressing BMI1. Importantly, BMI1-transduced cells proliferated in stroma-free cytokine-dependent cultures for more than 20 weeks, while a stable population of approximately 1% to 5% of CD34(+) cells was preserved that retained colony-forming capacity. Whereas control cells lost most of their NOD-SCID engraftment potential after 10 days of ex vivo culturing in absence of stroma, NOD-SCID multilineage engraftment was retained by overexpression of BMI1. Thus, our data indicate that self-renewal of human hematopoietic stem cells is enhanced by BMI1, and we classify BMI1 as an intrinsic regulator of human stem/progenitor cell self-renewal.