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Blood. 1998 Jun 15;91(12):4523-30.

The chemokine receptor CXCR-4 is expressed on CD34+ hematopoietic progenitors and leukemic cells and mediates transendothelial migration induced by stromal cell-derived factor-1.

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Department of Medicine II, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


The chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) and its receptor CXCR-4 (fusin, LESTR) are likely to be involved in the trafficking of hematopoietic progenitor and stem cells, as suggested by the reduced bone marrow hematopoiesis in SDF-1-deficient mice and the chemotactic effect of SDF-1 on CD34+ progenitor cells. Migration of leukemic cells might also depend on the expression of chemokine receptors. Therefore, we analyzed expression of CXCR-4 on mobilized normal CD34+ progenitors and leukemic cells. In addition, SDF-1-induced transendothelial migration across a bone marrow endothelial cell layer was assessed in vitro. By flow cytometry, CXCR-4 was found to be expressed in significant amounts on circulating CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells, including more primitive subsets (CD34+/CD38- and CD34+/Thy-1+ cells). In accordance with the immunofluorescence data, CD34+ progenitors efficiently migrated across endothelium in response to SDF-1 containing conditioned medium from the stromal cell line MS-5. Leukemic blasts (mostly CD34+) from patients with acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) expressed variable amounts of CXCR-4, which was functionally active, as demonstrated by a positive correlation between the SDF-1-induced transendothelial migration and the cell surface density of CXCR-4 (r = 0.97). Also recombinant SDF-1beta induced migration of CXCR-4-positive leukemic blasts. The effect of both conditioned medium and recombinant SDF-1 was inhibited by a CXCR-4 blocking antibody. In contrast, CD34+ leukemic cell lines (KG1, KG1a, Kasumi-1, MOLM-1) expressed low levels or were negative for CXCR-4, and did not migrate. By reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), however, basal levels of CXCR-4 mRNA were also detected in all leukemic cell lines. We conclude that CXCR-4 is expressed on CD34+ cells including more primitive, pluripotent progenitors, and may therefore play a role in the homing of hematopoietic stem cells. CXCR-4 expressed in variable amounts on primary AML leukemic cells is functionally active and may be involved in the trafficking of malignant hematopoietic cells.

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