, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 434-439
Date: 09 Mar 2011

Maintenance of genomic integrity in hematopoietic stem cells

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Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) maintain hematopoietic homeostasis throughout a mammal’s lifespan through self-renewal and differentiation into mature blood cells. Within a bone marrow niche, HSCs adopt a quiescent state and remain in the non-dividing, G0 phase of the cell cycle. It was recently shown that maintenance of genomic integrity is crucial for the preservation of self-renewal capacity of HSCs. In this review, we focus on progress in elucidating the roles of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and DNA damage responses (DDR) in maintaining genomic integrity, and thus HSC function. Several studies have demonstrated that inappropriate ROS levels arising from disruption of the Atm, PI3K-Akt, or Mdm2-p53 pathways impair HSC function in vivo. Intriguing evidence that stem cells use specific DDR mechanisms is also accumulating. Although murine HSCs are more resistant than progenitor cells to mild DNA damage in vivo, the surviving HSCs frequently acquire genetic aberrations that can lead to leukemogenesis. Indeed, non-dividing HSCs employ the error-prone non-homologous end-joining pathway of DNA repair to fix DNA breaks, whereas progenitors undergo apoptosis; proliferating HSCs employ the high-fidelity homologous recombination mechanism. Dissection of HSC-specific mechanisms for the maintenance of genomic integrity may provide valuable insights into the biology of both HSCs and leukemia stem cells.