Cells within the hematopoietic stem cell compartment selectively express receptors for cytokines that have a lineage(s) specific role; they include erythropoietin, macrophage colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor and the ligand for the fms-like tyrosine kinase 3. These hematopoietic cytokines can instruct the lineage fate of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in addition to ensuring the survival and proliferation of cells that belong to a particular cell lineage(s). Expression of the receptors for macrophage colony-stimulating factor and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is positively autoregulated and the presence of the cytokine is therefore likely to enforce a lineage bias within hematopoietic stem cells that express these receptors. In addition to the above roles, macrophage colony-stimulating factor and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor are powerful chemoattractants. The multiple roles of some hematopoietic cytokines leads us towards modelling hematopoietic stem cell decision-making whereby these cells can 'choose' just one lineage fate and migrate to a niche that both reinforces the fate and guarantees the survival and expansion of cells as they develop.
Keywords: cytokines; decision-making; environmental niches; hematopoiesis; stem cells.