In addition to acting as building blocks for biosynthesis, amino acids might serve as signaling regulators in various physiological and pathological processes. However, it remains unknown whether amino acid levels affect the activities of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). By using a genetically encoded fluorescent sensor of the intracellular levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), we could monitor the dynamics of BCAA metabolism in HSCs. A mitochondrial-targeted 2C-type Ser/Thr protein phosphatase (PPM1K) promotes the catabolism of BCAAs to maintain MEIS1 and p21 levels by decreasing the ubiquitination-mediated degradation controlled by the E3 ubiquitin ligase CDC20. PPM1K deficiency led to a notable decrease in MEIS1/p21 signaling to reduce the glycolysis and quiescence of HSCs, followed by a severe impairment in repopulation activities. Moreover, the deletion of Ppm1k dramatically extended survival in a murine leukemia model. These findings will enhance the current understanding of nutrient signaling in metabolism and function of stem cells. Liu et al. show that the dynamics of BCAA metabolism in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) can be monitored by a genetically encoded fluorescent sensor. PPM1K promotes BCAA catabolism and maintains the glycolysis and quiescence of HSCs/LICs through the downregulation of CDC20-mediated ubiquitination of MEIS1 and p21.
- branched-chain amino acids
- hematopoietic stem cells
- leukemia-initiating cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology