AbstractMassive expansion of erythroid progenitor cells is essential for surviving anemic stress. Research towards understanding this critical process, referred to as stress-erythropoiesis, has been hampered due to lack of specific marker-combinations enabling analysis of the distinct stress-progenitor cells capable of providing radioprotection and enhanced red blood cell production. Here we present a method for precise identification and in vivo validation of progenitor cells contributing to both steady-state and stress-erythropoiesis, enabling for the first time in-depth molecular characterization of these cells. Differential expression of surface markers CD150, CD9 and Sca1 defines a hierarchy of splenic stress-progenitors during irradiation-induced stress recovery in mice, and provides high-purity isolation of the functional stress-BFU-Es with a 100-fold improved enrichment compared to state-of-the-art. By transplanting purified stress-progenitors expressing the fluorescent protein Kusabira Orange, we determined their kinetics in vivo and demonstrated that CD150+CD9+Sca1- stress-BFU-Es provide a massive but transient radioprotective erythroid wave, followed by multi-lineage reconstitution from CD150+CD9+Sca1+ multi-potent stem/progenitor cells. Whole genome transcriptional analysis revealed that stress-BFU-Es express gene signatures more associated with erythropoiesis and proliferation compared to steady-state BFU-Es, and are BMP-responsive. Evaluation of chromatin accessibility through ATAC sequencing reveals enhanced and differential accessibility to binding sites of the chromatin-looping transcription factor CTCF in stress-BFU-Es compared to steady-state BFU-Es. Our findings offer molecular insight to the unique capacity of stress-BFU-Es to rapidly form erythroid cells in response to anemia and constitute an important step towards identifying novel erythropoiesis stimulating agents.
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Ferrata Storti Foundation, Pavia, Italy
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