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J Immunol. 1998 Apr 15;160(8):3689-97.

Phorbol esters induce differentiation of human CD34+ hemopoietic progenitors to dendritic cells: evidence for protein kinase C-mediated signaling.

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  • 1Immune Cell Biology Program, Stem Cell Biology Branch, Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD 20889-5067, USA.


The intracellular signals that mediate the differentiation of pluripotent hemopoietic progenitors to dendritic cells (DC) are largely undefined. We have found that the phorbol ester PMA by itself induced 47% +/- 8.7% of input human CD34+ hemopoietic progenitors to differentiate into cells with morphology and surface Ag phenotype characteristic of DC by day 7 of culture. Functionally, PMA-generated DC processed and presented whole soluble Ag and also induced resting T cell proliferation and Ag-specific CTL effector function. Unlike cytokine-driven DC differentiation, PMA suppressed proliferation and induced cell death (in part via apoptosis) in cells that did not differentiate to DC. The effects of PMA were blocked by inhibitors of protein kinase C activation, suggesting a central role for this signaling molecule. PMA-mediated signaling also induced expression of the RelB transcription factor, an NF-kappaB family member implicated in DC differentiation. These findings suggest that phorbol esters activate protein kinase C, which then initiates the terminal component of an intracellular signaling pathway(s) involved in the DC differentiation of CD34+ hemopoietic progenitors.

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