Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which are maintained within a specific niche. A stem cell niche is a microenvironment of cells that maintain stem cell functionality, and one example is the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche. This niche provides support for HSCs, which give rise to hematopoietic cells such as erythrocytes and leukocytes. β-catenin is one of several proteins involved in the functioning and maintenance of the HSC niche. This protein is an intrinsic factor of HSCs and a component of the Wnt signalling pathway, which is integral to differentiation and proliferation. Experiments investigating overactive β-catenin have shown expansion of the HSC niche, while other experiments blocking β-catenin activity have shown attenuated HSC niche capacity. The results suggest that β-catenin plays a crucial role in HSC proliferation and differentiation within the niche. In agreement with these results, improper regulation of β-catenin has been implicated in the development of leukemia.
Thomas, Ryan DA and Dattani, Neil D., "The role of β-catenin in the hematopoietic stem cell niche" (2009). Biology Publications. Paper 2.