Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into all blood lineages. A balance among quiescence, self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation is precisely maintained to preserve multi-lineage generation throughout the organism's lifetime, and during responses to stress, tissue damage, and pathogens. Although the dysregulation of these processes in HSCs has immense implications for human health, how this balance is regulated is not well understood. Recent data support the novel hypothesis that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a physiological regulator of HSCs. These data support the contention that AhR acts as a negative regulator by curbing excessive or unnecessary proliferation and promoting HSC quiescence. While our lab has done much work to understand the biology associated with AhR disruption in HSCs, we have not yet identified AhR-regulated signaling pathways that define normal HSC function as well as play a role in altered function under conditions of AhR dysregulation. We hypothesize that the Wnt and/or HIF signaling pathways are critical for AhR-mediated regulation of HSCs. We also hypothesize that dysregulation of AhR expression in HSCs, through disruption of these pathways, results in accumulation of oxidative DNA damage that eventually restricts self-renewal and causes premature senescence. Using a combination of molecular and cell biology techniques, unique animal models, and signaling pathway analyses, we will determin AhR-regulated signaling pathways in HSCs that define AhR function and that may lead to, under conditions of dysregulation, to HSC senescence and hematopoietic disease.

Public Health Relevance

We hypothesize that the AhR signaling pathway has an important role in regulating the hematopoietic system by controlling the balance between quiescence and proliferation of HSCs. Through this capacity, AhR dysregulation by xenobiotic exposure or genetic/epigenetic events may play a significant role in the generation of leukemias and other hematopoietic disorders. These studies will have a major impact on the understanding of AhR biology, the processes of aging, tissue regeneration, and leukemogenesis, as well as our ability to manipulate HSCs and possibly other stem cell populations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Reinlib, Leslie J
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University of Rochester
Public Health & Prev Medicine
School of Medicine & Dentistry
United States
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Gasiewicz, Thomas A; Singh, Kameshwar P; Casado, Fanny L (2017) Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and Stem Cells. Stem Cells Int 2017:4602854
Unnisa, Zeenath; Singh, Kameshwar P; Henry, Ellen C et al. (2016) Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Deficiency in an Exon 3 Deletion Mouse Model Promotes Hematopoietic Stem Cell Proliferation and Impacts Endosteal Niche Cells. Stem Cells Int 2016:4536187
Bennett, John A; Singh, Kameshwar P; Unnisa, Zeenath et al. (2015) Deficiency in Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) Expression throughout Aging Alters Gene Expression Profiles in Murine Long-Term Hematopoietic Stem Cells. PLoS One 10:e0133791