Calreticulin Affects Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cell Fate by Impacting Erythroid and Megakaryocytic Differentiation

Stem Cells Dev. 2018 Feb 15;27(4):225-236. doi: 10.1089/scd.2017.0137. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Calreticulin (CALR) is a chaperone protein that localizes primarily to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen where it is responsible for the control of proper folding of neo-synthesized glycoproteins and the retention of calcium. Recently, mutations affecting exon 9 of the CALR gene have been described in approximately 40% of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Although the role of mutated CALR in the development of MPNs has begun to be clarified, there are still no data available on the function of wild-type (WT) CALR during physiological hematopoiesis. To shed light on the role of WT CALR during normal hematopoiesis, we performed gene silencing and overexpression experiments in hematopoietic stem progenitor cells (HSPCs). Our results showed that CALR overexpression is able to affect physiological hematopoiesis by enhancing both erythroid and megakaryocytic (MK) differentiation. In agreement with overexpression data, CALR silencing caused a significant decrease in both erythroid and MK differentiation of human HSPCs. Gene expression profiling (GEP) analysis showed that CALR is able to affect the expression of several genes involved in HSPC differentiation toward both the erythroid and MK lineages. Moreover, GEP data also highlighted the modulation of several genes involved in ER stress response, unfolded protein response (UPR), and DNA repair, and of several genes already described to play a role in MPN development, such as proinflammatory cytokines and hematological neoplasm-related markers. Altogether, our data unraveled a new and unexpected role for CALR in the regulation of normal hematopoietic differentiation. Moreover, by showing the impact of CALR on the expression of genes involved in several biological processes already described in cellular transformation, our data strongly suggest a more complex role for CALR in MPN development that goes beyond the activation of the THPO receptor and involves ER stress response, UPR, and DNA repair.

Keywords: HSPC; calreticulin; differentiation; erythroid; megakaryocyte.