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Development. 1997 May;124(10):2039-48.

Flk-1 expression defines a population of early embryonic hematopoietic precursors.

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  • 1National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


We have investigated the expression pattern of the Flk-1 receptor tyrosine kinase in mouse embryonic and fetal hematopoietic tissues as well as on hematopoietic precursor cells derived from these tissues. RNA analysis indicated that flk-1 was expressed in the yolk sac at day 10 of gestation, in the whole embryo at day 10 and 12 of gestation, in the liver throughout fetal life and in embryoid bodies (EBs) generated from ES cells differentiated in culture. Flk-1 message was also detected in erythroid and macrophage colonies generated from precursors of yolk sac, fetal liver, adult marrow and EB origin. Using an antibody directed against the extracellular portion of the molecule we have found that up to 50% of cells from EBs differentiated for 4 days express Flk-1. Following the development of this early Flk-1+ population the number of receptor-positive cells declines progressively to represent less than 5% of the EBs by day 12 of differentiation. Kinetic analysis revealed that the establishment of the EB Flk-1+ population precedes the development of cells which express CD34, Ly6A (Sca-1) and AA4.1. Cell sorting experiments demonstrated that all day-4 EB-derived hematopoietic precursors are Flk-1+ whereas greater than 95% of those found within the day-12 EBs are Flk-1-, suggesting that the precursor population which expresses this receptor represents an early but transient wave of hematopoietic development. Analysis of yolk sac and whole embryos at day 8.5 of gestation revealed a small but distinct Flk-1+ population that contained hematopoietic precursors. Day-12.5 fetal liver contained few Flk-1+ cells that showed little hematopoietic potential. Together these findings indicate that Flk-1 is expressed on an early population of hematopoietic precursors that may represent the onset of embryonic hematopoiesis.

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