XRCC4-like factor (XLF/Cernunnos) is a component of the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway of double-strand DNA break repair. XLF-deficient patients develop a severe progressive lymphocytopenia. Although NHEJ is required for V(D)J recombination and lymphocyte development, XLF-deficient mice have normal V(D)J recombination, highlighting the need for an alternative mechanism for the lymphocytopenia. Here, we report that XLF-deficient mice recapitulate the age-dependent lymphocytopenia of patients. We show that XLF deficiency leads to premature aging of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), measured by decreased functional capacity in transplantation assays, preferential myeloid reconstitution, and reduced self-renewal at a young age. We propose that premature aging of HSCs, together with previously reported defects in class-switch recombination and memory immune response, underlies the progressive and severe lymphocytopenia in XLF-deficient patients in the absence of measurable V(D)J recombination defects.
© 2014 by The American Society of Hematology.