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Blood. 1995 Jul 15;86(2):572-80.

Stem cell factor retards differentiation of normal human erythroid progenitor cells while stimulating proliferation.

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Department of Medicine, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA.


Stem cell factor (SCF), the ligand for the c-kit tyrosine kinase receptor, markedly stimulates the accumulation of erythroid progenitor cells in vitro. We now report that SCF delays erythroid differentiation among the progeny of individual erythroid progenitors while greatly increasing the proliferation of these progeny. These effects appear to be independent of an effect on maintenance of cell viability. Highly purified day-6 erythroid colony-forming cells (ECFC), consisting mainly of colony-forming units-erythroid (CFU-E), were generated from human peripheral blood burst-forming units-erythroid (BFU-E). Addition of SCF to the ECFC in serum-free liquid culture, together with erythropoietin (EP) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), resulted in a marked increase in DNA synthesis, associated with a delayed peak in cellular benzidine positivity and a delayed incorporation of 59Fe into hemoglobin compared with cultures without SCF. In the presence of SCF, the number of ECFC was greatly expanded during this culture period, and total production of benzidine-positive cells plus hemoglobin synthesis were ultimately increased. To determine the effect of SCF on individual ECFC, single-cell cultures were performed in both semisolid and liquid media. These cultures demonstrated that SCF, in the presence of EP and IGF-1, acted on single cells and their descendants to delay erythroid differentiation while substantially stimulating cellular proliferation, without an enhancement of viability of the initial cells. This was also evident when the effect of SCF was determined using clones of ECFC derived from single BFU-E. Our experiments demonstrate that SCF acts on individual day-6 ECFC to retard erythroid differentiation while simultaneously providing enhanced proliferation by a process apparently independent of an effect on cell viability or programmed cell death.

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