The transcription factor RUNX1 is required in the embryo for formation of the adult hematopoietic system. Here, we describe the seminal findings that led to the discovery of RUNX1 and of its critical role in blood cell formation in the embryo from hemogenic endothelium (HE). We also present RNA-sequencing data demonstrating that HE cells in different anatomic sites, which produce hematopoietic progenitors with dissimilar differentiation potentials, are molecularly distinct. Hemogenic and non-HE cells in the yolk sac are more closely related to each other than either is to hemogenic or non-HE cells in the major arteries. Therefore, a major driver of the different lineage potentials of the committed erythro-myeloid progenitors that emerge in the yolk sac versus hematopoietic stem cells that originate in the major arteries is likely to be the distinct molecular properties of the HE cells from which they are derived. We used bioinformatics analyses to predict signaling pathways active in arterial HE, which include the functionally validated pathways Notch, Wnt, and Hedgehog. We also used a novel bioinformatics approach to assemble transcriptional regulatory networks and predict transcription factors that may be specifically involved in hematopoietic cell formation from arterial HE, which is the origin of the adult hematopoietic system.
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