Single-cell lineage tracing unveils a role for TCF15 in haematopoiesis

Nature. 2020 Jul;583(7817):585-589. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2503-6. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


Bone marrow transplantation therapy relies on the life-long regenerative capacity of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs)1,2. HSCs present a complex variety of regenerative behaviours at the clonal level, but the mechanisms underlying this diversity are still undetermined3-11. Recent advances in single-cell RNA sequencing have revealed transcriptional differences among HSCs, providing a possible explanation for their functional heterogeneity12-17. However, the destructive nature of sequencing assays prevents simultaneous observation of stem cell state and function. To solve this challenge, we implemented expressible lentiviral barcoding, which enabled simultaneous analysis of lineages and transcriptomes from single adult HSCs and their clonal trajectories during long-term bone marrow reconstitution. Analysis of differential gene expression between clones with distinct behaviour revealed an intrinsic molecular signature that characterizes functional long-term repopulating HSCs. Probing this signature through in vivo CRISPR screening, we found the transcription factor TCF15 to be required and sufficient to drive HSC quiescence and long-term self-renewal. In situ, Tcf15 expression labels the most primitive subset of true multipotent HSCs. In conclusion, our work elucidates clone-intrinsic molecular programmes associated with functional stem cell heterogeneity and identifies a mechanism for the maintenance of the self-renewing HSC state.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Cell Self Renewal
  • Female
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Single-Cell Analysis*


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Tcf15 protein, mouse