Loss of Dnmt3a Immortalizes Hematopoietic Stem Cells In Vivo

Cell Rep. 2018 Apr 3;23(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.025.


Somatic mutations in DNMT3A are recurrent events across a range of blood cancers. Dnmt3a loss of function in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) skews divisions toward self-renewal at the expense of differentiation. Moreover, DNMT3A mutations can be detected in the blood of aging individuals, indicating that mutant cells outcompete normal HSCs over time. It is important to understand how these mutations provide a competitive advantage to HSCs. Here we show that Dnmt3a-null HSCs can regenerate over at least 12 transplant generations in mice, far exceeding the lifespan of normal HSCs. Molecular characterization reveals that this in vivo immortalization is associated with gradual and focal losses of DNA methylation at key regulatory regions associated with self-renewal genes, producing a highly stereotypical HSC phenotype in which epigenetic features are further buttressed. These findings lend insight into the preponderance of DNMT3A mutations in clonal hematopoiesis and the persistence of mutant clones after chemotherapy.

Keywords: DNA methylation; DNMT3A; HSC; leukemia; self-renewal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • DNMT3A protein, human
  • Dnmt3a protein, mouse
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A