Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) attrition is considered the key event underlying progressive BM failure (BMF) in Fanconi anemia (FA), the most frequent inherited BMF disorder in humans. However, despite major advances, how the cellular, biochemical, and molecular alterations reported in FA lead to HSC exhaustion remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated in human and mouse cells that loss-of-function of FANCA or FANCC, products of 2 genes affecting more than 80% of FA patients worldwide, is associated with constitutive expression of the transcription factor microphthalmia (MiTF) through the cooperative, unscheduled activation of several stress-signaling pathways, including the SMAD2/3, p38 MAPK, NF-κB, and AKT cascades. We validated the unrestrained Mitf expression downstream of p38 in Fanca–/– mice, which display hallmarks of hematopoietic stress, including loss of HSC quiescence, DNA damage accumulation in HSCs, and reduced HSC repopulation capacity. Importantly, we demonstrated that shRNA-mediated downregulation of Mitf expression or inhibition of p38 signaling rescued HSC quiescence and prevented DNA damage accumulation. Our data support the hypothesis that HSC attrition in FA is the consequence of defects in the DNA-damage response combined with chronic activation of otherwise transiently activated signaling pathways, which jointly prevent the recovery of HSC quiescence.
Alessia Oppezzo, Julie Bourseguin, Emilie Renaud, Patrycja Pawlikowska, Filippo Rosselli