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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 2019 Apr 2; 10:204





The Jackson Laboratory, National Blood Foundation Scientific Research Grants Program


Hematopoiesis is sustained throughout life by hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that are capable of self-renewal and differentiation into hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs). There is accumulating evidence that cholesterol homeostasis is an important factor in the regulation of hematopoiesis. Increased cholesterol levels are known to promote proliferation and mobilization of HSCs, while hypercholesterolemia is associated with expansion of myeloid cells in the peripheral blood and links hematopoiesis with cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol is a precursor to steroid hormones, oxysterols, and bile acids. Among steroid hormones, 17β-estradiol (E2) induces HSC division and E2-estrogen receptor α (ERα) signaling causes sexual dimorphism of HSC division rate. Oxysterols are oxygenated derivatives of cholesterol and key substrates for bile acid synthesis and are considered to be bioactive lipids, and recent studies have begun to reveal their important roles in the hematopoietic and immune systems. 27-Hydroxycholesterol (27HC) acts as an endogenous selective estrogen receptor modulator and induces ERα-dependent HSC mobilization and extramedullary hematopoiesis. 7α,25-dihydroxycholesterol (7α,25HC) acts as a ligand for Epstein-Barr virus-induced gene 2 (EBI2) and directs migration of B cells in the spleen during the adaptive immune response. Bile acids serve as chemical chaperones and alleviate endoplasmic reticulum stress in HSCs. Cholesterol metabolism is dysregulated in hematologic malignancies, and statins, which inhibit de novo cholesterol synthesis, have cytotoxic effects in malignant hematopoietic cells. In this review, recent advances in our understanding of the roles of cholesterol and its metabolites as signaling molecules in the regulation of hematopoiesis and hematologic malignancies are summarized.


The author gives appreciation to colleagues and collaborators, and apologizes to researchers whose work could not be cited and this review owing to space limitations. The author thanks Carmen Robinett for thoughtful editing of the manuscript.

Open access under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license