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Exp Hematol. 1999 Jun;27(6):994-1003.

CD34+ cells from mobilized peripheral blood retain fetal bone marrow repopulating capacity within the Thy-1+ subset following cell division ex vivo.

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  • 1SyStemix Inc. (a Novartis company), Palo Alto, CA, USA. judy.young@pharma.novartis.com


Ex vivo cell cycling of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), a subset of primitive hematopoietic progenitors (PHP) with engrafting capacity, is required for transduction with retroviral vectors and to increase transplantable HSC numbers. However, induction of division of HSC ex vivo also may lead to differentiation and loss of in vivo marrow repopulating potential. We evaluated mobilized peripheral blood (MPB) PHP for maintenance of stem cell function after ex vivo culture under conditions that we show can induce cycling of a majority of PHP with minimal differentiation. The following methods were combined: cell labeling with the division tracking dye carboxyfluorescein-diacetate succinimidylester (CFSE), analysis of primitive cell surface marker expression, an ex vivo PHP assay, and an in vivo marrow repopulating assay. MPB-purified CD34+ Thy-1+ cells were labeled with CFSE dye and cultured for 112 hours in serum-deprived medium in the presence of the cytokine combinations of thrombopoietin (TPO), flt3 ligand (FL), and c-kit ligand (KL), or TPO, FL, and interleukin 6 (IL-6). Both cytokine combinations supported division of greater than 95% of cells within 112 hours with an average 2.1-fold (TPO, FL, KL) or 1.3-fold (TPO, FL, IL-6) increase in total cell numbers. An average of 21.6% (TPO, FL, KL) and 27.4% (TPO, FL, IL-6) of the divided cells still expressed the Thy-1 marker after 112 hours. Functional assays were performed to compare cultured and uncultured cells. CD34+ Thy-1+ CFSElo (post division) cells showed maintenance of cobblestone area-forming cell (CAFC) frequency (a mean of 1/9.0) relative to the starting population of uncultured CD34+ Thy-1+ cells (a mean of 1/8.4). In contrast, CD34+ cells that had lost Thy-1 expression during culture (CD34+ Thy-1 CFSElo) showed a mean 5.8-fold reduction in CAFC frequency (a mean of 1/52.5). Only the Thy-1-expressing fraction of cells post culture could engraft in vivo in the SCID-hu bone assay. Because the majority of HSC functional activity post culture was found in the CD34+ Thy-1+ fraction, we focused on this fraction for subsequent analysis. CFSE labeling allows segregation and purification by flow cytometry of cells having undergone discrete numbers of divisions during culture. Very few cells that divided more than four times in culture still expressed Thy-1. Cells that retained expression of Thy-1 during culture retained CAFC activity relative to fresh CD34+ Thy-1+ cells, after undergoing at least two divisions. CAFC frequency decreased after four divisions in culture with TPO, FL, and KL or after three divisions in TPO, FL, and IL-6. We then compared populations of Thy-1+ cells that had undergone sequential numbers of divisions in culture for their ability to engraft in the SCID-hu bone assay. Engrafting ability was retained throughout four divisions in both cytokine combinations. These data demonstrate that primitive MPB CD34+ cells maintain HSC function coincident with Thy-1 expression while undergoing two to four divisions under these culture conditions. Essentially all CD34+ Thy-1+ cells divided under the conditions tested, promoting susceptibility to retroviral transduction.

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