Microplastics dampen the self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells by disrupting the gut microbiota-hypoxanthine-Wnt axis

Cell Discov. 2024 Mar 29;10(1):35. doi: 10.1038/s41421-024-00665-0.


Microplastics (MPs) are contaminants ubiquitously found in the global biosphere that enter the body through inhalation or ingestion, posing significant risks to human health. Recent studies emerge that MPs are present in the bone marrow and damage the hematopoietic system. However, it remains largely elusive about the specific mechanisms by which MPs affect hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and their clinical relevance in HSC transplantation (HSCT). Here, we established a long-term MPs intake mouse model and found that MPs caused severe damage to the hematopoietic system. Oral gavage administration of MPs or fecal transplantation of microbiota from MPs-treated mice markedly undermined the self-renewal and reconstitution capacities of HSCs. Mechanistically, MPs did not directly kill HSCs but disrupted gut structure and permeability, which eventually ameliorated the abundance of Rikenellaceae and hypoxanthine in the intestine and inactivated the HPRT-Wnt signaling in bone marrow HSCs. Furthermore, administration of Rikenellaceae or hypoxanthine in mice as well as treatment of WNT10A in the culture system substantially rescued the MPs-induced HSC defects. Finally, we validated in a cohort of human patients receiving allogenic HSCT from healthy donors, and revealed that the survival time of patients was negatively correlated with levels of MPs, while positively with the abundance of Rikenellaceae, and hypoxanthine in the HSC donors' feces and blood. Overall, our study unleashes the detrimental roles and mechanisms of MPs in HSCs, which provides potential strategies to prevent hematopoietic damage from MPs and serves as a fundamental critique for selecting suitable donors for HSCT in clinical practice.