Connecting secretome to hematopoietic stem cell phenotype shifts in an engineered bone marrow niche

Aidan E. Gilchrist, Brendan A.C. Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) primarily reside in the bone marrow, where they receive external cues from their local microenvironment. The complex milieu of biophysical cues, cellular components and cell-secreted factors regulates the process by which HSC produce the blood and immune system. We previously showed direct coculture of primary murine hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells with a population of marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal and progenitor cells (MSPCs) in a methacrylamide-functionalized gelatin (GelMA) hydrogel improves hematopoietic progenitor maintenance. However, the mechanism by which MSPCs influenced HSC fate decisions remained unknown. Herein, we report the use of proteomic analysis to correlate HSC phenotype to a broad candidate pool of 200 soluble factors produced by combined mesenchymal and hematopoietic progeny. Partial least squares regression (PLSR), along with an iterative filter method, identified TGFβ-1, MMP-3, c-RP and TROY as positively correlated with HSC maintenance. Experimentally, we then observe exogenous stimulation of HSC monocultures in GelMA hydrogels with these combined cytokines increases the ratio of hematopoietic progenitors to committed progeny after a 7-day culture 7.52 ± 3.65-fold compared to non-stimulated monocultures. Findings suggest a cocktail of the downselected cytokines amplifies hematopoietic maintenance potential of HSCs beyond that of MSPC-secreted factors alone. This work integrates empirical and computation methods to identify cytokine combinations to improve HSC maintenance within an engineered HSC niche, suggesting a route toward identifying feeder-free culture platforms for HSC expansion. Insight Hematopoietic stem cells within an artificial niche receive maintenance cues in the form of soluble factors from hematopoietic and mesenchymal progeny. Applying a proteomic regression analysis, we identify a reduced set of soluble factors correlated to maintenance of a hematopoietic phenotype during culture in a biomaterial model of the bone marrow niche. We identify a minimum factor cocktail that promotes hematopoietic maintenance potential in a gelatin-based culture, regardless of the presence of mesenchymal feeder cells. By combining empirical and computational methods, we report an experimentally feasible number of factors from a large dataset, enabling exogenous integration of soluble factors into an engineered hematopoietic stem cell for enhanced maintenance potential of a quiescent stem cell population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-187
Number of pages13
JournalIntegrative Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • biomaterial niche
  • cellular crosstalk
  • hematopoietic stem cell
  • secretome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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