Precise control of microRNA expression contributes to development and the establishment of tissue identity, including in proper hematopoietic commitment and differentiation, whereas aberrant expression of various microRNAs has been implicated in malignant transformation. A small number of microRNAs are upregulated in megakaryocytes, among them is microRNA-22 (miR-22). Dysregulation of miR-22 leads to various hematologic malignancies and disorders, but its role in hematopoiesis is not yet well established. Here we show that upregulation of miR-22 is a critical step in megakaryocyte differentiation. Megakaryocytic differentiation in cell lines is promoted upon overexpression of miR-22, whereas differentiation is disrupted in CRISPR/Cas9-generated miR-22 knockout cell lines, confirming that miR-22 is an essential mediator of this process. RNA-sequencing reveals that miR-22 loss results in downregulation of megakaryocyte-associated genes. Mechanistically, we identify the repressive transcription factor, GFI1, as the direct target of miR-22, and upregulation of GFI1 in the absence of miR-22 inhibits megakaryocyte differentiation. Knocking down aberrant GFI1 expression restores megakaryocytic differentiation in miR-22 knockout cells. Furthermore, we have characterized hematopoiesis in miR-22 knockout animals and confirmed that megakaryocyte differentiation is similarly impaired in vivo and upon ex vivo megakaryocyte differentiation. Consistently, repression of Gfi1 is incomplete in the megakaryocyte lineage in miR-22 knockout mice and Gfi1 is aberrantly expressed upon forced megakaryocyte differentiation in explanted bone marrow from miR-22 knockout animals. This study identifies a positive role for miR-22 in hematopoiesis, specifically in promoting megakaryocyte differentiation through repression of GFI1, a target antagonistic to this process.
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