Lifelong blood cell production is governed through the poorly understood integration of cell-intrinsic and -extrinsic control of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) quiescence and activation. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) coordinately regulate multiple targets within signaling networks, making them attractive candidate HSC regulators. We report that miR-126, a miRNA expressed in HSC and early progenitors, plays a pivotal role in restraining cell-cycle progression of HSC in vitro and in vivo. miR-126 knockdown by using lentiviral sponges increased HSC proliferation without inducing exhaustion, resulting in expansion of mouse and human long-term repopulating HSC. Conversely, enforced miR-126 expression impaired cell-cycle entry, leading to progressively reduced hematopoietic contribution. In HSC/early progenitors, miR-126 regulates multiple targets within the PI3K/AKT/GSK3β pathway, attenuating signal transduction in response to extrinsic signals. These data establish that miR-126 sets a threshold for HSC activation and thus governs HSC pool size, demonstrating the importance of miRNA in the control of HSC function. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
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