The quiescent state in the cell cycle is thought to be indispensable for the maintenance of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Interaction of HSCs with their particular microenvironments, known as niches, is critical for maintaining the stem cell properties of HSCs, including cell adhesion, survival, and cell division. Hematopoietic stem cells balance quiescence and cell division in the stem cell niche and also maintain the potential for long-term hematopoiesis. We have recently reported that HSCs expressing the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 are in the G0 phase and anti-apoptotic, and comprise a side-population (SP) of HSCs, which contacts osteoblasts (OBs), the source of the angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) ligand for Tie2 in the bone marrow (BM) niche. Tie2/Ang-1 signaling occurs in interactions between HSCs and niche cells. The interaction of Tie2 with Ang-1 in vitro induces tight adhesion of HSCs to stromal cells and is sufficient to maintain the long-term blood-repopulating (LTR) activity of HSCs in vivo by preventing cell division. In addition, Ang-1 enhances the ability of HSCs to become quiescent and induces their adhesion to the bone surface in vivo, resulting in protection of the HSC compartment from stresses suppressing hematopoiesis. These data suggest that the Tie2/Ang-1 signaling pathway plays a critical role in the maintenance of HSCs in the adult BM niche. Ang-1 produced by OBs activates Tie2 on HSCs and promotes tight adhesion of HSCs to the niche, resulting in quiescence and enhanced survival of HSCs.
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