Identification of HSC/MPP expansion units in fetal liver by single-cell spatiotemporal transcriptomics

Cell Res. 2022 Jan;32(1):38-53. doi: 10.1038/s41422-021-00540-7. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Limited knowledge of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying hematopoietic stem cell and multipotent progenitor (HSC/MPP) expansion within their native niche has impeded the application of stem cell-based therapies for hematological malignancies. Here, we constructed a spatiotemporal transcriptome map of mouse fetal liver (FL) as a platform for hypothesis generation and subsequent experimental validation of novel regulatory mechanisms. Single-cell transcriptomics revealed three transcriptionally heterogeneous HSC/MPP subsets, among which a CD93-enriched subset exhibited enhanced stem cell properties. Moreover, by employing integrative analysis of single-cell and spatial transcriptomics, we identified novel HSC/MPP 'pocket-like' units (HSC PLUS), composed of niche cells (hepatoblasts, stromal cells, endothelial cells, and macrophages) and enriched with growth factors. Unexpectedly, macrophages showed an 11-fold enrichment in the HSC PLUS. Functionally, macrophage-HSC/MPP co-culture assay and candidate molecule testing, respectively, validated the supportive role of macrophages and growth factors (MDK, PTN, and IGFBP5) in HSC/MPP expansion. Finally, cross-species analysis and functional validation showed conserved cell-cell interactions and expansion mechanisms but divergent transcriptome signatures between mouse and human FL HSCs/MPPs. Taken together, these results provide an essential resource for understanding HSC/MPP development in FL, and novel insight into functional HSC/MPP expansion ex vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells*
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Liver
  • Mice
  • Transcriptome*