Scientists have uncovered the molecular processes of the transition from endothelial cells to blood cells of different types.
Haematopoietic cells originate in the endothelium in a process known as endothelial-to-haematopoietic transition, explain the team, led by Dr Niels-Bjarne Woods from Lund University in Sweden. They used a lab model of human stem cell development involving flow cytometry and single-cell transcriptional analysis.
This showed there is 'a continuum of endothelial and hematopoietic signatures', say the scientists in Cell Reports last Tuesday (4 April).
They add: 'At the interface of these two signatures, a unique group of cells displayed both an endothelial signature and high levels of key haematopoietic stem cell-associated genes.'
They called this group of cells the interphase group, and confirmed that it is an immediate precursor to haematopoietic cells. Further testing with differential expression analyses divided this group into subgroups with 'distinct haematopoietic lineage differentiation potentials'.
They conclude that: 'Immediate precursors to haematopoietic cells already have their haematopoietic lineage restrictions defined prior to complete downregulation of the endothelial signature.'
Overall, these findings improve our understanding of haematopoietic cell generation in humans, they state.
Dr Woods adds: 'Most cell types are believed to result from a linear sequence of undifferentiated stages, progressively restricting their potential until they are restricted to the mature state. Cells arising from a transitioning process may not need to follow this rule, giving wider flexibility to which blood cell types can be produced.
'Understanding how the first human blood cells develop will provide missing clues for us to generate blood stem cells in the laboratory for use in the treatment of blood disorders and malignancies.'
Source: Guibentif, C. et al. Single-Cell Analysis Identifies Distinct Stages of Human Endothelial-to-Hematopoietic Transition. Cell Reports 4 April 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.03.023
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