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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Nov 8;91(23):11104-8.

The purification of megapoietin: a physiological regulator of megakaryocyte growth and platelet production.

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  • 1Hematology Unit, Massaschusetts General Hospital, Boston.


The circulating blood platelet is produced by the bone marrow megakaryocyte. In response to a decrease in the platelet count, megakaryocytes increase in number and ploidy. Although this feedback loop has long been thought to be mediated by a circulating hematopoietic factor, no such factor has been purified. Using a model of thrombocytopenia in sheep, we have identified an active substance called megapoietin, which stimulated an increase in the number and ploidy of megakaryocytes in bone marrow culture. Circulating levels of this factor could be quantified with this assay and were found to be inversely proportional to the platelet count of the sheep. Levels increased from < 0.26 pM in normal sheep to 25-40 pM in thrombocytopenic sheep. From large amounts of thrombocytopenic sheep plasma we have purified a 31,200-Da protein and found that it retained the ability to stimulate both megakaryocyte number and ploidy in vitro. Injection of partially purified megapoietin into rats stimulated a 24% increase in megakaryocyte number and a 60% increase in mean ploidy as well as a 77% increase in the platelet count. Sheep platelets bound megapoietin and the amount of platelets required to eliminate half the activity in vitro was close to the amount associated with this same level of activity in vivo. We believe that megapoietin is the physiologically relevant mediator of megakaryocyte growth and platelet production. Moreover, our data suggest that the level of megapoietin is directly determined by the ability of platelets to remove megapoietin from the circulation.

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