The chromatin binding protein Phf6 restricts the self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells

Satoru Miyagi, Patrycja Sroczynska, Yuko Kato, Yaeko Nakajima-Takagi, Motohiko Oshima, Ola Rizq, Naoya Takayama, Atsunori Saraya, Seiya Mizuno, Fumihiro Sugiyama, Satoru Takahashi, Yumi Matsuzaki, Jesper Christensen, Kristian Helin and Atsushi Iwama

Key Points

  • Phf6 deficiency augments HSC self-renewal and confers resistance against the TNFα-mediated growth inhibition on HSCs

  • Phf6 deficiency alone is not sufficient to induce hematopoietic transformation


Recurrent inactivating mutations have been identified in the X-linked PHF6 gene, encoding a chromatin-binding transcriptional regulator protein, in various hematological malignancies. However, the role of PHF6 in normal hematopoiesis and its tumor suppressor function remain largely unknown. We herein generated mice carrying a floxed Phf6 allele and inactivated Phf6 in hematopoietic cells at various developmental stages. The Phf6 deletion in embryos augmented the capacity of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) to proliferate in cultures and reconstitute hematopoiesis in recipient mice. The Phf6 deletion in neonates and adults revealed that cycling HSCs readily acquired an advantage in competitive repopulation upon the Phf6 deletion, while dormant HSCs only did so after serial transplantations. Phf6-deficient HSCs maintained an enhanced repopulating capacity during serial transplantations; however, they did not induce any hematological malignancies. Mechanistically, Phf6 directly and indirectly activated downstream effectors in TNFα signaling. The Phf6 deletion repressed the expression of a set of genes associated with TNFα signaling, thereby conferring resistance against the TNFα-mediated growth inhibition on HSCs. Collectively, these results define Phf6 as a novel negative regulator of HSC self-renewal, implicating inactivating PHF6 mutations in the pathogenesis of hematological malignancies, but also indicate that a Phf6 deficiency alone is not sufficient to induce hematopoietic transformation.

  • Submitted March 6, 2019.
  • Revision received March 18, 2019.
  • Accepted March 26, 2019.