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Blood. 1999 Jul 15;94(2):529-38.

Murine stromal cells counteract the loss of long-term culture-initiating cell potential induced by cytokines in CD34(+)CD38(low/neg) human bone marrow cells.

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  • 1INSERM U 362, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


Evidence has been provided recently that shows that high concentrations of cytokines can fulfill functions previously attributed to stromal cells, such as promote the survival of, and led to a net increase in human primitive progenitors initiating long-term cultures in vitro (LTC-IC) or engrafting NOD-SCID (nonobese diabetic severe-combined immunodeficient) recipients in vivo. These data prompted us to re-evaluate whether stromal cells will further alter the properties of primitive progenitor cells exposed to cytokines. Single CD34(+)CD38(low) and CD38(neg) cells were incubated 10 days in serum-containing or serum-free medium in the presence or in the absence of murine marrow-derived stromal cells (MS-5). Recombinant human cytokines stem cell factor (SCF), pegylated-megakaryocyte growth and differentiation factor (PEG-MGDF), FLT3-L, Interleukin (IL)-3, IL-6, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) were systematically added at various concentrations (10 to 300 ng/mL). Cell proliferation and LTC-IC potential were evaluated in each clone after 10 days. A striking and consistent observation was the retention of a high LTC-IC potential in clones exposed to cytokines in the presence of stromal feeders, whereas clones exposed to cytokines alone in the absence of stromal feeders rapidly lost their LTC-IC potential as they proliferated. This was reflected both by the higher proportion of wells containing LTC-IC and by the high numbers of CFC produced after 5 weeks in clones grown with MS-5 during the first 10 days. We further showed by analyzing multiple replicates of a single clone at day 10 that MS-5 cells promoted a net increase in the LTC-IC compartment through self-renewal divisions. Interestingly, these primitive LTC-IC were equally distributed among small and large clones, as counted at day 10, indicating that active proliferation and loss of LTC-IC potential could be dissociated. These observations show that, in primitive cells, stromal cells counteract differentiation events triggered by cytokines and promoted self-renewal divisions. Furthermore, the almost identical distribution of the size of the clones with or without MS-5 suggests that proliferation and function of human primitive cells may be independently regulated by external signals, and that the former is primarily under the control of cytokines.

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