Self-renewal is a defining characteristic of stem cells; however, the molecular pathways underlying its regulation are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that conditional inactivation of the Pbx1 proto-oncogene in the hematopoietic compartment results in a progressive loss of long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSCs) that is associated with concomitant reduction in their quiescence, leading to a defect in the maintenance of self-renewal as assessed by serial transplantation. Transcriptional profiling revealed that multiple stem cell maintenance factors are perturbed in Pbx1-deficient LT-HSCs, which prematurely express a large subset of genes, including cell-cycle regulators, normally expressed in non-self-renewing multipotent progenitors. A significant proportion of Pbx1-dependent genes is associated with the TGF-beta pathway, which serves a major role in maintaining HSC quiescence. Prospectively isolated, Pbx1-deficient LT-HSCs display altered transcriptional responses to TGF-beta stimulation in vitro, suggesting a possible mechanism through which Pbx1 maintenance of stem cell quiescence may in part be achieved.
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