The May-Hegglin anomaly gene MYH9 is a negative regulator of platelet biogenesis modulated by the Rho-ROCK pathway
The gene implicated in the May-Hegglin anomaly and related macrothrombocytopenias, MYH9, encodes myosin-IIA, a protein that enables morphogenesis in diverse cell types. Defective myosin-IIA complexes are presumed to perturb megakaryocyte (MK) differentiation or generation of proplatelets. We observed that Myh9(-/-) mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells differentiate into MKs that are fully capable of proplatelet formation (PPF). In contrast, elevation of myosin-IIA activity, by exogenous expression or by mimicking constitutive phosphorylation of its regulatory myosin light chain (MLC), significantly attenuates PPF. This effect occurs only in the presence of myosin-IIA and implies that myosin-IIA influences thrombopoiesis negatively. MLC phosphorylation in MKs is regulated by Rho-associated kinase (ROCK), and consistent with our model, ROCK inhibition enhances PPF. Conversely, expression of AV14, a constitutive form of the ROCK activator Rho, blocks PPF, and this effect is rescued by simultaneous expression of a dominant inhibitory MLC form. Hematopoietic transplantation studies in mice confirm that interference with the putative Rho-ROCK-myosin-IIA pathway selectively decreases the number of circulating platelets. Our studies unveil a key regulatory pathway for platelet biogenesis and hint at Sdf-1/CXCL12 as one possible extracellular mediator. The unexpected mechanism for Myh9-associated thrombocytopenia may lead to new molecular approaches to manipulate thrombopoiesis.