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Blood. 2002 Nov 1;100(9):3203-8.

Identification of the hemangioblast in postnatal life.

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Kimmel Cancer Center, Room 609, Thomas Jefferson University, 233 S. 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107-5541, USA.


Postnatal CD34(+) cells expressing vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (KDR) generate hematopoietic or endothelial progeny in different in vitro and in vivo assays. Hypothetically, CD34(+)KDR(+) cells may comprise hemangioblasts bipotent for both lineages. This hypothesis is consistent with 2 series of experiments. In the first series, in clonogenic culture permissive for hematopoietic and endothelial cell growth, CD34(+)KDR(+) cells generate large hemato-endothelial (Hem-End) colonies (5% of seeded cells), whereas CD34(+)KDR(-) cells do not. Limiting-dilution analysis indicates that Hem-End colonies are clonally generated by single hemangioblasts. Sibling cells generated by a hemangioblast, replated in unicellular culture, produce either hematopoietic or Hem-End colonies, depending on the specific culture conditions. Identification of endothelial cells was based on the expression of VE-cadherin and endothelial markers and with lack of CD45 and hematopoietic molecules, as evaluated by immunofluorescence, immunocytochemistry, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Furthermore, endothelial cells were functionally identified using low-density lipoprotein (LDL) uptake and tube-formation assays. In the second series, to evaluate the self-renewal capacity of hemangioblasts, single CD34(+)KDR(+) cells were grown in 3-month extended long-term culture (ELTC) through 3 serial culture rounds-that is, blast cells generated in unicellular ELTC were reseeded for a subsequent round of unicellular ELTC. After 9 months, 10% blasts from tertiary ELTC functioned as hemangioblasts and generated macroscopic Hem-End colonies in clonogenic culture. These studies identified postnatal hemangioblasts in a CD34(+)KDR(+) cell subset, endowed with long-term proliferative potential and bilineage differentiation capacity. Although exceedingly rare, hemangioblasts may represent the lifetime source/reservoir for primitive hematopoietic and endothelial progenitors.

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