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Blood. 1997 Apr 1;89(7):2336-46.

Ultrastructure of platelet formation by human megakaryocytes cultured with the Mpl ligand.

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INSERM U.91-Hôpital Henri Mondor, Créteil, France.


The site and mechanism of platelet production by bone marrow megakaryocytes (MKs) has been the subject of extensive studies, but is still a matter of controversy. However, the recent discovery of the Mpl ligand (Mpl-l), also called megakaryocyte growth and development factor (MGDF) or thrombopoietin, has resulted in considerable progress in the understanding of the maturation of the MK lineage. To better understand the mechanism of platelet production, we examined the late stage of MK maturation by electron microscopy in cells cultured in the presence of Mpl-l. Human bone marrow CD34+ CD38+ cells, which contain late MK progenitors, were purified by flow cytometry and cultured in a serum-free liquid medium containing recombinant human Mpl-l (MGDF 10 ng/mL) for 7 days. In this system, the majority of cultured cells were large MKs with lobulated polyploid nuclei. The MKs displayed a smooth surface with harmonious cytoplasmic maturation and abundant, regularly distributed demarcation membranes and alpha-granules, and even some dense granules. Interestingly, approximately 30% of the MKs observed displayed morphologic evidence of platelet production: at optical microscopy, MKs formed long filamentous cytoplasmic extensions (proplatelets) that fragmented into platelet-sized particles. Moreover, flow cytometric analysis of this cultured cell population showed GPIIb-positive particles of the size of platelets. Electron microscopic observation showed that MKs producing platelets displayed thin pseudopods on the surface, and that the channels of the demarcation membrane system were dilated, allowing long strands of cytoplasm to extend from the cell periphery. These cytoplasmic strands displayed beading with constrictions separating platelet-sized segments; the more distal to the cell core, the smaller the fragments were. They eventually detached from the cell core into the culture medium either occasionally still elongated or, more often, separated into individual platelets. Parallel longitudinal and perpendicular microtubules were visualized in the constricted regions of these cytoplasmic strips; immunogold study of tubulin localization confirmed this subcellular distribution. On both sides of the constricted areas, vacuoles were noted, the fusion of which might have led to the detachment of individual platelets. Finally, in close proximity to the platelet-forming MKs, numerous microparticles were shed. Although some of these particles might correspond to transverse sections of pseudopods, this did not seem to be the case, since they were rarely seen around thrombin-stimulated MKs with surfaces bristled by numerous pseudopods. Flow cytometry showed that apart from shed cytoplasmic fragments of platelet size, numerous smaller particles strongly labeled for CD41 were also released by mature MKs. In conclusion, this study describes the ultrastructure of human platelet production in cultured MKs, involving the formation of proplatelets and the shedding of microparticles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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