The multifaceted functions of C/EBP[alpha] in normal and malignant hematopoiesis – University of Copenhagen

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02 December 2015

The multifaceted functions of C/EBP[alpha] in normal and malignant hematopoiesis

Ohlsson, E., M. B. Schuster, M. Hasemann & B. T. Porse (2015). The multifaceted functions of C/EBP[alpha] in normal and malignant hematopoiesis. Leukemia, doi:10.1038/leu.2015.324.


The process of blood formation, hematopoiesis, depends upon a small number of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that reside in the bone marrow (BM). Differentiation of HSCs is characterised by decreased expression of genes associated with self-renewal accompanied by a stepwise activation of genes promoting differentiation. Lineage branching is further directed by groups of cooperating and counteracting genes forming complex networks of lineage specific transcription factors. Imbalances in such networks can result in blockage of differentiation, lineage reprogramming and malignant transformation. CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein Alpha (C/EBPα) was originally identified 30 years ago as a transcription factor that binds both promoter and enhancer regions. Most of the early work focused on the role of C/EBPα in regulating transcriptional processes as well as on its functions in key differentiation processes during liver, adipogenic and hematopoietic development. Specifically, C/EBPα was shown to control differentiation by its ability to coordinate transcriptional output with cell cycle progression. Later, its role as an important tumour suppressor, mainly in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), was recognised and has been the focus of intense studies by a number of investigators. More recent work has revisited the role of C/EBPα in normal hematopoiesis, especially its function in HSCs, and also started to provide more mechanistic insights into its role in normal and malignant hematopoiesis. In particular, the differential actions of C/EBPα isoforms, as well as its importance in chromatin modelling and cellular reprogramming, are beginning to be elucidated. Finally, recent work has also shed light on the dichotomous function of C/EBPα in AML by demonstrating its ability to act as both a tumour suppressor and promoter. In the present review, we will summarise the current knowledge on the functions of C/EBPα during normal and malignant hematopoiesis with special emphasis on the recent work.