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Exp Hematol. 1999 Apr;27(4):642-53.

Retinoic acid induces apoptosis of human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells: involvement of retinoic acid receptors and retinoid X receptors depends on lineage commitment of the hematopoietic progenitor cells.

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Department of Immunology, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.


Retinoids are bifunctional regulators of growth and differentiation of hematopoietic cells. In this study we explored the effects of retinoic acid (RA) on apoptosis of human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells isolated from normal bone marrow. RA (100 nM) induced an increase in the percentage of dead cells from 24% to 44% at day 6 (p < 0.05, n = 6) as compared to control cells cultured in medium alone. The effect was dose dependent and appeared relatively late. Significant differences were observed from day 4 onward. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, was demonstrated as the mode of cell death by using the TUNEL assay, which detects single strand nicks in DNA, or by the Nicoletti technique demonstrating a subdiploid population by DNA staining. RA previously was found to inhibit granulocyte colony-stimulating factor--and not granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor--stimulated proliferation of CD34+ cells. However, we found that RA opposed anti-apoptotic effects of G-CSF and GM-CSF on CD34+ cells (G-CSF: 8% dead cells at day 6; G-CSF + RA: 20%; GM-CSF: 12%; GM-CSF + RA: 27%). Moreover, RA induced apoptosis of CD34+ cells and CD34+CD71+ cells stimulated with erythropoietin. To explore the receptor signaling pathways involved in RA-induced apoptosis, we used selective ligands for retinoic acid receptors (RARs; RO13-7410) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs; RO 25-6603). We found that RARs were involved in RA-mediated apoptosis of myeloid progenitor cells, whereas RARs as well as RXRs were involved in RA-mediated apoptosis of erythroid progenitor cells.

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