Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) specification is regulated by numerous defined factors acting locally within the hemogenic niche; however, it is unclear whether production can adapt to fluctuating systemic needs. Here we show that the CNS controls embryonic HSPC numbers via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal (HPA/I) stress response axis. Exposure to serotonin or the reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine increased runx1 expression and Flk1(+)/cMyb(+) HSPCs independent of peripheral innervation. Inhibition of neuronal, but not peripheral, tryptophan hydroxlyase (Tph) persistently reduced HSPC number. Consistent with central HPA/I axis induction and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activation, GR agonists enhanced, whereas GR loss diminished, HSPC formation. Significantly, developmental hypoxia, as indicated by Hif1α function, induced the HPA/I axis and cortisol production. Furthermore, Hif1α-stimulated HSPC enhancement was attenuated by neuronal tph or GR loss. Our data establish that embryonic HSC production responds to physiologic stress via CNS-derived serotonin synthesis and central feedback regulation to control HSC numbers.
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