Vinculin is a highly conserved actin-binding protein that is localized in integrin-mediated focal adhesion complexes. Although critical roles have been proposed for integrins in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function, little is known about the involvement of intracellular focal adhesion proteins in HSC functions. This study showed that the ability of c-Kit(+)Sca1(+)Lin(-) HSCs to support reconstitution of hematopoiesis after competitive transplantation was severely impaired by lentiviral transduction with short hairpin RNA sequences for vinculin. The potential of these HSCs to differentiate into granulocytic and monocytic lineages, to migrate toward stromal cell-derived factor 1α, and to home to the bone marrow in vivo were not inhibited by the loss of vinculin. However, the capacities to form long term culture-initiating cells and cobblestone-like areas were abolished in vinculin-silenced c-Kit(+)Sca1(+)Lin(-) HSCs. In contrast, adhesion to the extracellular matrix was inhibited by silencing of talin-1, but not of vinculin. Whole body in vivo luminescence analyses to detect transduced HSCs confirmed the role of vinculin in long term HSC reconstitution. Our results suggest that vinculin is an indispensable factor determining HSC repopulation capacity, independent of integrin functions.
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