Spatio-Temporal Characterization of Ligand-Receptor Interactions in Haematopoietic Stem Cell Rolling during Homing

  • Bader Al Alwan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Researches on Hematopoietic Stem Cell (HSC) have been expanding that leads to an increase in our understanding of HSC normal behaviors and abnormal alterations. One of the most important issues in the research on HSCs is to understand the mechanism of the homing process of these cells to settle in their niche in the bone marrow and establish the production of various blood cell types after bone marrow transplantation. The cells first must come in contact with the endothelial cells. This contact is known as adhesion and occurs through a multi-step paradigm ending with transmigration to the bone marrow niche. The initial step of the homing, tethering and rolling of HSC, is mediated by P- and E-Selectins present on endothelial cell surface through their interactions with the ligands expressed on the surface of HSC. Thus, understanding the adhesion process and its contribution for efficient HSCs homing will have great impact on HSC therapy. The selectin – ligands interaction has been intensively studied using in vivo and in vitro approaches. However, the molecular mechanism involved by HSCs at single molecule level is poorly understood. Here in this study, a novel experimental method to unravel the molecular mechanisms of the Selectin-ligands interactions in vitro at the single molecule level is developed by combining microfluidics, epi-fluorescence microscopy and live cells. In this work, the new single-molecule imaging technique enabled us to directly visualize the nanoscale spatiotemporal dynamics of the membrane protein-ligand interactions under conditions of shear stress acting on the cells at the molecular level in real time. Using this method, we revealed that selectin ligands on membrane-tethers and slings show unique spatiotemporal dynamics that is distinct from those on the cell body. We demonstrated that the membrane tethers are formed from single microvilli on the cells, which provides a mechanism to spatially localize selectin ligands, PSGL-1 and CD44 on the tethers and slings. We also demonstrated that the selectin ligands show fast diffusional motion along the tethers and slings compared with that on the cell body due to the detachment of cell membranes from actin cytoskeleton during the formation of the tethers. Our results suggest that the spatial confinement of the selectin ligands together with the fast scanning of a large area by the selectin ligands increase the efficiency of selectin-ligands interaction during the rolling, resulting in slow and stable rolling of the cell on selectin. Our findings contribute significantly to molecular level understanding of the initial step of HSCs. This single-molecule imaging technique that we developed in this study will find wide applications in the molecular-level studies on cell-cell interactions including cancer cell metastasis.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorSatoshi Habuchi (Supervisor)


  • Haematopoietic Stem Cell
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • HSC homing
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Ligand-Receptor
  • Single-Molecule

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