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Blood. 2000 May 1;95(9):2806-12.

Generation of T cells from adult human hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors in a fetal thymic organ culture system: stimulation by tumor necrosis factor-alpha.

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  • 1Laboratory of Experimental Hematology and the Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital, Antwerp, Belgium.


To investigate the T-lymphopoietic capacity of human adult bone marrow (ABM) hematopoietic progenitor cells, CD34+Lin-, CD34+CD38+, and CD34++CD38- cells were cultured in a severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mouse fetal thymic organ culture (FTOC). Direct seeding of these progenitors resulted in a moderate to severe cell loss, particularly for the CD34++CD38- cell fraction, and T cells could only be generated from the CD34+Lin- fraction. Preincubation for 36 hours with interleukin-3 (IL-3) and stem cell factor (SCF) led to an improved cell survival and proliferation, although T-cell development was seen only in the CD34+Lin- fraction. Addition of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha to IL-3 + SCF-supplemented preincubation medium resulted in optimal cell survival, cell proliferation. and T-cell generation of all 3 cell fractions. The TNF-alpha effect resulted in an up-regulation of CD127 (ie, the IL-7 receptor alpha-chain) in a small subset of the CD34+ cells. No evidence could be generated to support the possibility that TNF-alpha inhibits a cell population that suppresses T-cell differentiation. A quantitatively different T-cell generation potency was still seen between the 3 subpopulations: CD34+Lin- (100% success rate) > CD34+CD38+ (66%) > CD34++CD38- (25%). These data contrast with our previous findings using fetal liver and cord blood progenitors, which readily differentiate into T-lymphocytes in FTOC, even without prestimulation with cytokines. Our results demonstrate that adult CD34++CD38- cells, known to contain hematopoietic stem cells, can differentiate into T-lymphocytes and that a significant difference exists in T-lymphopoietic activity of stem cells derived from ontogenetically different sources. (Blood. 2000;95:2806-2812)

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