Structure of the thrombopoietin-MPL receptor complex is a blueprint for biasing hematopoiesis

Cell. 2023 Sep 14;186(19):4189-4203.e22. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.07.037. Epub 2023 Aug 25.


Thrombopoietin (THPO or TPO) is an essential cytokine for hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) maintenance and megakaryocyte differentiation. Here, we report the 3.4 Å resolution cryoelectron microscopy structure of the extracellular TPO-TPO receptor (TpoR or MPL) signaling complex, revealing the basis for homodimeric MPL activation and providing a structural rationalization for genetic loss-of-function thrombocytopenia mutations. The structure guided the engineering of TPO variants (TPOmod) with a spectrum of signaling activities, from neutral antagonists to partial- and super-agonists. Partial agonist TPOmod decoupled JAK/STAT from ERK/AKT/CREB activation, driving a bias for megakaryopoiesis and platelet production without causing significant HSC expansion in mice and showing superior maintenance of human HSCs in vitro. These data demonstrate the functional uncoupling of the two primary roles of TPO, highlighting the potential utility of TPOmod in hematology research and clinical HSC transplantation.

Keywords: JAK-STAT; TpoR; c-MPL; cryo-EM; hematopoiesis; ligand engineering; mTOR; signaling; structure; thrombopoietin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • DNA Methylation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Thrombopoietin* / genetics
  • Thrombopoiesis
  • Thrombopoietin*


  • MPL protein, human
  • Receptors, Thrombopoietin
  • Thrombopoietin