The Transition from Quiescent to Activated States in Human Hematopoietic Stem Cells Is Governed by Dynamic 3D Genome Reorganization

Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Mar 4;28(3):488-501.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2020.11.001. Epub 2020 Nov 25.


Lifelong blood production requires long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSCs), marked by stemness states involving quiescence and self-renewal, to transition into activated short-term HSCs (ST-HSCs) with reduced stemness. As few transcriptional changes underlie this transition, we used single-cell and bulk assay for transposase-accessible chromatin sequencing (ATAC-seq) on human HSCs and hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) subsets to uncover chromatin accessibility signatures, one including LT-HSCs (LT/HSPC signature) and another excluding LT-HSCs (activated HSPC [Act/HSPC] signature). These signatures inversely correlated during early hematopoietic commitment and differentiation. The Act/HSPC signature contains CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) binding sites mediating 351 chromatin interactions engaged in ST-HSCs, but not LT-HSCs, enclosing multiple stemness pathway genes active in LT-HSCs and repressed in ST-HSCs. CTCF silencing derepressed stemness genes, restraining quiescent LT-HSCs from transitioning to activated ST-HSCs. Hence, 3D chromatin interactions centrally mediated by CTCF endow a gatekeeper function that governs the earliest fate transitions HSCs make by coordinating disparate stemness pathways linked to quiescence and self-renewal.

Keywords: 4D nucleome; CTCF; chromatin accessibility; chromatin interactions; epigenetics; hematopoiesis; hematopoietic stem cells; low-C; single-cell ATAC-seq; topologically associated domain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Chromatin*
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells*
  • Humans


  • Chromatin