Mismatch repair deficient hematopoietic stem cells are preleukemic stem cells
Whereas transformation events in hematopoietic malignancies may occur at different developmental stages, the initial mutation originates in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), creating a preleukemic stem cell (PLSC). Subsequent mutations at either stem cell or progenitor cell levels transform the PLSC into lymphoma/leukemia initiating cells (LIC). Thymic lymphomas have been thought to develop from developing thymocytes. T cell progenitors are generated from HSCs in the bone marrow (BM), but maturation and proliferation of T cells as well as T-lymphomagenesis depends on both regulatory mechanisms and microenvironment within the thymus. We studied PLSC linked to thymic lymphomas. In this study, we use MSH2-/- mice as a model to investigate the existence of PLSC and the evolution of PLSC to LIC. Following BM transplantation, we found that MSH2-/- BM cells from young mice are able to fully reconstitute multiple hematopoietic lineages of lethally irradiated wild-type recipients. However, all recipients developed thymic lymphomas within three and four months post transplantation. Transplantation of different fractions of BM cells or thymocytes from young health MSH2-/- mice showed that an HSC enriched fraction always reconstituted hematopoiesis followed by lymphoma development. In addition, lymphomas did not occur in thymectomized recipients of MSH2-/- BM. These results suggest that HSCs with DNA repair defects such as MSH2-/- are PLSCs because they retain hematopoietic function, but also carry an obligate lymphomagenic potential within their T-cell progeny that is dependent on the thymic microenvironment.