The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 54: 1165 - 1173 (2010)

Vol 54, Issue 6-7

Special Issue: Developmental Hematopoiesis

Definitive human and mouse hematopoiesis originates from the embryonic endothelium: a new class of HSCs based on VE-cadherin expression

Published: 17 July 2010

Estelle Oberlin*,1,2, Bouchra El Hafny1,2, Laurence Petit-Cocault1,2 and Michèle Souyri*,1,2

1Inserm, U602, Villejuif and 2Université Paris-Sud, Institut André Lwoff, Villejuif, France


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) arise first in the third week of human ontogeny inside yolk sac developing blood vessels, and independently, from the wall of the embryonic aorta and vitelline arteries one week later. HSCs produced in the yolk sac and in the embryonic truncal arteries migrate to and transiently colonize the embryonic liver (EL), and thereafter the bone marrow (BM), their permanent site of residence. At the moment, the origin of human HSCs is still controversial; one of the main hypotheses being that they are generated by hemogenic endothelial cells (ECs). To proove definitively the endothelial origin of HSCs that arise within the human embryo, we previously purified ECs from either the yolk sac or the truncal arteries and reported that they were able to produce blood cells in vitro. We then found that some of the HSCs present in the human EL were co-expressing vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin, an endothelial marker, CD45, a pan-hematopoietic marker, and CD34, a common endothelial and hematopoietic marker, and demonstrated that these HSCs bearing a dual hemato-endothelial phenotype were endowed with remarkably high self renewal and proliferative potentials. Furthermore, a transgenic mouse model based on the VE-cadherin cis-regulating elements that we engineered to trace the fate of the first VE-cadherin expressing cells allowed us to clearly demonstrate that a majority of adult BM HSCs derived from a VE-cadherin ancestor. Altogether our studies strongly suggest that at least a part of both the human and the murine hematopoietic systems arise from an endothelium-like ancestor.


human, embryo, hematopoietic stem cell, hemogenic endothelium, VE-cadherin

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