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Leuk Res. 1990;14(6):501-14.

Induced differentiation of K562 leukemia cells: a model for studies of gene expression in early megakaryoblasts.

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Department of Virology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


The K562 leukemia cell line has been extensively used in studies of erythroid differentiation but it has been less well appreciated that treatment of K562 cells with the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) leads to loss of their erythroid properties and to acquisition of several megakaryoblastoid characteristics. These include synthesis and surface expression of glycoprotein IIIa, an increase in platelet peroxidase positivity, enhancement of thromboxane A2 receptors, and increased cell volume and DNA ploidy. TPA-treated K562 cells also synthesize and secrete platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1), urokinase-plasminogen activator (u-PA) and its specific inhibitor, type 1 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1). Induction of all these proteins, which have also been found in platelet granules (u-PA on platelet surface receptors) occurs at the level of mRNA accumulation. Therefore, in addition to facilitating studies and cloning of genes specific for erythroid differentiation, the K562 cells offer a tool to approach early steps of megakaryoblast commitment and differentiation. Observations made with the K562 cell line and several other leukemia cell lines co-expressing erythroid and megakaryocyte markers suggest that the erythroid and megakaryocyte lineages diverge from a common bipotent precursor cell.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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