Integrated Stress Response Activity Marks Stem Cells in Normal Hematopoiesis and Leukemia

Cell Rep. 2018 Oct 30;25(5):1109-1117.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.10.021.


Lifelong maintenance of the blood system requires equilibrium between clearance of damaged hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and long-term survival of the HSC pool. Severe perturbations of cellular homeostasis result in rapid HSC loss to maintain clonal purity. However, normal homeostatic processes can also generate lower-level stress; how HSCs survive these conditions remains unknown. Here we show that the integrated stress response (ISR) is uniquely active in HSCs and facilitates their persistence. Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) mediates the ISR and is highly expressed in HSCs due to scarcity of the eIF2 translation initiation complex. Amino acid deprivation results in eIF2α phosphorylation-dependent upregulation of ATF4, promoting HSC survival. Primitive acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells also display eIF2 scarcity and ISR activity marks leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in primary AML samples. These findings identify a link between the ISR and stem cell survival in the normal and leukemic contexts.

Keywords: amino acid deprivation; human hematopoietic stem cells; integrated stress response; leukemia stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 4 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Cytoprotection
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Up-Regulation
  • Valine / deficiency


  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4
  • Valine