Angiocrine factors from Akt-activated endothelial cells balance self-renewal and differentiation of haematopoietic stem cells.
Endothelial cells establish an instructive vascular niche that reconstitutes haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) through release of specific paracrine growth factors, known as angiocrine factors. However, the mechanism by which endothelial cells balance the rate of proliferation and lineage-specific differentiation of HSPCs is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that Akt activation in endothelial cells, through recruitment of mTOR, but not the FoxO pathway, upregulates specific angiocrine factors that support expansion of CD34(-)Flt3(-) KLS HSPCs with long-term haematopoietic stem cell (LT-HSC) repopulation capacity. Conversely, co-activation of Akt-stimulated endothelial cells with p42/44 MAPK shifts the balance towards maintenance and differentiation of the HSPCs. Selective activation of Akt1 in the endothelial cells of adult mice increased the number of colony forming units in the spleen and CD34(-)Flt3(-) KLS HSPCs with LT-HSC activity in the bone marrow, accelerating haematopoietic recovery. Therefore, the activation state of endothelial cells modulates reconstitution of HSPCs through the modulation of angiocrine factors, with Akt-mTOR-activated endothelial cells supporting the self-renewal of LT-HSCs and expansion of HSPCs, whereas MAPK co-activation favours maintenance and lineage-specific differentiation of HSPCs.