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Live-animal tracking of individual haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in their niche


Stem cells reside in a specialized, regulatory environment termed the niche that dictates how they generate, maintain and repair tissues1,2. We have previously documented that transplanted haematopoietic stem and progenitor cell populations localize to subdomains of bone-marrow microvessels where the chemokine CXCL12 is particularly abundant3. Using a combination of high-resolution confocal microscopy and two-photon video imaging of individual haematopoietic cells in the calvarium bone marrow of living mice over time, we examine the relationship of haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells to blood vessels, osteoblasts and endosteal surface as they home and engraft in irradiated and c-Kit-receptor-deficient recipient mice. Osteoblasts were enmeshed in microvessels and relative positioning of stem/progenitor cells within this complex tissue was nonrandom and dynamic. Both cell autonomous and non-autonomous factors influenced primitive cell localization. Different haematopoietic cell subsets localized to distinct locations according to the stage of differentiation. When physiological challenges drove either engraftment or expansion, bone-marrow stem/progenitor cells assumed positions in close proximity to bone and osteoblasts. Our analysis permits observing in real time, at a single cell level, processes that previously have been studied only by their long-term outcome at the organismal level.

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Figure 1: The calvarium endosteal niche is perivascular.
Figure 2: Engrafting HSPCs reach the endosteum.
Figure 3: Engraftment is initiated by asynchronous HSPC cell divisions.
Figure 4: Cell-dependent and niche-dependent HSPC localization.


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We thank E. Schipani for providing the PPR mice. We are grateful for help and advice from A. Catic, L. Purton, V. Janzen, G. Adams, J. Spencer, J. Runnels and P. O’Donovan. We thank Y. Tang for the mice husbandry care; D. Dombkowski, L. Prickett and K. Folz-Donahue for cell sorting expertise; R. Klein and K. Chomsky-Higgins for technical assistance; and C. Pasker, V. Shannon, M. Indico Miklosik and D. Machon for administrative assistance. C.L.C. was funded by EMBO and HFSP. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health (to D.T.S. and C.P.L.), the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (to C.P.L.) and philanthropic sources (to D.T.S. and C.L.C.).

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Correspondence to Charles P. Lin or David T. Scadden.

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D.T.S. is a consultant and stockholder for Fate Therapeusis.

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Lo Celso, C., Fleming, H., Wu, J. et al. Live-animal tracking of individual haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in their niche. Nature 457, 92–96 (2009).

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