The effects of Gremlin1 on human umbilical cord blood hematopoietic progenitors

Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2015 Jan;54(1):103-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcmd.2014.07.012. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) support malignant hematopoiesis in CML. Conversely, the multi-functional BMP antagonist Gremlin1 supports self-renewing cancer stem cells of other malignancies. Inhibition of BMP signaling in CML, or of Gremlin1 in solid tumors, may therefore have therapeutic potential. However, since BMPs regulate hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) decisions in the stem cell niche, it is necessary to determine how Gremlin1 influences normal HSC. We examined the effects of Gremlin1 on long-term culture-initiating cells (LTC-IC) and transplantable hematopoietic stem cells (SCID-repopulating cells: SRC) in human umbilical cord blood. Gremlin1 inhibited BMP signaling, downregulated BMP-6 and cyclin E2 expression and upregulated hairy and enhancer of split-1 (HES-1; a Notch transcriptional target) and Hedgehog interacting protein-1 (HHIP-1; an inhibitor of Hedgehog signaling). The functional effects of Gremlin1 on SRC, i.e. skewing of their myelopoietic:lymphopoietic potential towards B lymphopoiesis without affecting long-term engraftment potential, were entirely consistent with changes in gene expression induced by Gremlin1. Since both BMPs and Gremlin1 are secreted by osteoblasts in vivo, our studies provide potential insights into the molecular regulation of hematopoiesis in the stem cell niche. These results also suggest that Gremlin1 (and possibly its mimetics that may be developed for therapeutic use) may not adversely affect normal human hematopoietic stem cell survival, though they may reduce their myelopoietic potential.

Keywords: Bone morphogenetic proteins; Gremlin 1 protein, human; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Hematopoietic stem cells; Mice, SCID; Transcription factors.

MeSH terms

  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6 / biosynthesis
  • Carrier Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclins / biosynthesis
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Lymphopoiesis / drug effects*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Myelopoiesis / drug effects*
  • Stem Cell Niche / drug effects*
  • Transcription Factor HES-1


  • BMP6 protein, human
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6
  • CCNE2 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cyclins
  • GREM1 protein, human
  • HHIP protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Transcription Factor HES-1
  • HES1 protein, human