Hematopoiesis requires the interaction of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) with various stromal microenvironments. Here, we examine the role of early B cell factor 2 (Ebf2), a transcription factor expressed in a subset of immature osteoblastic cells. Ebf2(-/-) mice show decreased frequencies of HSCs and lineage-committed progenitors. This defect is cell nonautonomous, as shown by the fact that transplantation of Ebf2-deficient bone marrow into wild-type hosts results in normal hematopoiesis. In coculture experiments, Ebf2(-/-) osteoblastic cells have reduced potential to support short-term proliferation of HSCs. Expression profiling of sorted Ebf2(-/-) osteoblastic cells indicated that several genes implicated in the maintenance of HSCs are downregulated relative to Ebf2(+/-) cells, whereas genes encoding secreted frizzled-related proteins are upregulated. Moreover, wild-type HSCs cocultured with Ebf2(-/-) osteoblastic cells show a reduced Wnt response relative to coculture with Ebf2(+/-) cells. Thus, Ebf2 acts as a transcriptional determinant of an osteoblastic niche that regulates the maintenance of hematopoietic progenitors, in part by modulating Wnt signaling.
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