Notch signalling is a central regulator of differentiation in a variety of organisms and tissue types. Its activity is controlled by the multi-subunit Î 3-secretase (γSE) complex. Although Notch signalling can play both oncogenic and tumour-suppressor roles in solid tumours, in the haematopoietic system it is exclusively oncogenic, notably in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a disease characterized by Notch1-activating mutations. Here we identify novel somatic-inactivating Notch pathway mutations in a fraction of patients with chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML). Inactivation of Notch signalling in mouse haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) results in an aberrant accumulation of granulocyte/monocyte progenitors (GMPs), extramedullary haematopoieisis and the induction of CMML-like disease. Transcriptome analysis revealed that Notch signalling regulates an extensive myelomonocytic-specific gene signature, through the direct suppression of gene transcription by the Notch target Hes1. Our studies identify a novel role for Notch signalling during early haematopoietic stem cell differentiation and suggest that the Notch pathway can play both tumour-promoting and-suppressive roles within the same tissue.
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