Autophagy preserves hematopoietic stem cells by restraining MTORC1-mediated cellular anabolism


  • M. Borsa
  • S. Obba
  • F.C. Richter
  • H. Zhang
  • T. Riffelmacher
  • J. Carrelha
  • G. Alsaleh
  • S.E.W. Jacobsen
  • A.K. Simon


  • Autophagy


  • Autophagy 20 (1): 45-57


  • Adult stem cells are long-lived and quiescent with unique metabolic requirements. Macroautophagy/autophagy is a fundamental survival mechanism that allows cells to adapt to metabolic changes by degrading and recycling intracellular components. Here we address why autophagy depletion leads to a drastic loss of the stem cell compartment. Using inducible deletion of autophagy specifically in adult hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and in mice chimeric for autophagy-deficient and normal HSCs, we demonstrate that the stem cell loss is cell-intrinsic. Mechanistically, autophagy-deficient HSCs showed higher expression of several amino acid transporters (AAT) when compared to autophagy-competent cells, resulting in increased amino acid (AA) uptake. This was followed by sustained MTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) activation, with enlarged cell size, glucose uptake and translation, which is detrimental to the quiescent HSCs. MTOR inhibition by rapamycin treatment in vivo was able to rescue autophagy-deficient HSC loss and bone marrow failure and resulted in better reconstitution after transplantation. Our results suggest that targeting MTOR may improve aged stem cell function, promote reprogramming and stem cell transplantation.