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Blood. 1995 Feb 15;85(4):963-72.

FLK-2/FLT-3 ligand regulates the growth of early myeloid progenitors isolated from human fetal liver.

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  • 1Human Immunology and Molecular Biology Departments, DNAX Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA.


The effects of the recently identified FLK-2/FLT-3 ligand (FL) on the growth of purified human fetal liver progenitors were investigated under serum-deprived culture conditions. FL alone was found to stimulate modest proliferation in short-term cultures of CD34++ CD38+ lineage (Lin)- light-density fetal liver (LDFL) cells and the more primitive CD34++ CD38- Lin- LDFL cells. However, the low levels of growth induced by FL were insufficient for colony formation in clonal cultures. Synergism between FL and either granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), interleukin-3 (IL-3) or KIT ligand (KL) was observed in promoting the growth of high-proliferative potential (HPP) colony-forming cells (CF) and/or low-proliferative potential (LPP)-CFC in cultures of CD34++ CD38+ Lin- and CD34++ CD38- Lin- LDFL-cells. FL, alone or in combination with other cytokines, was not found to affect the growth of CD34+ Lin- LDFL cells, the most mature subpopulation of fetal liver progenitors investigated. The growth of the most primitive subset of progenitors studied, CD34++ CD38- Lin- LDFL cells, required the interactions of at least two cytokines, because only very low levels of growth were observed in response to either FL, GM-CSF, IL-3 or KL alone. However, the results of delayed cytokine-addition experiments suggested that individually these cytokines did promote the survival of this early population of progenitors. Although two-factor combinations of FL, KL, and GM-CSF were observed to promote the growth of early progenitors in a synergistic manner, neither of these factors was found to make fetal liver progenitors more responsive to suboptimal concentrations of a second cytokine. Only myeloid cells were recovered from liquid cultures of CD34++ CD38- Lin- LDFL cells grown in the presence of combinations of FL, KL, and GM-CSF. These results indicate that FL is part of a network of growth factors that regulate the growth and survival of early hematopoietic progenitors.

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