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Thrombopoietin (Tpo) is a primary regulator of megakaryocyte and platelet production. However, studies in c-mpl-deficient mice suggest that Tpo might also play an important role in early hemopoiesis. Here, the direct ability of Tpo to stimulate stroma-independent growth, multilineage differentiation, and progenitor cell expansion from single primitive CD34+ CD38- human bone marrow cells was investigated. Tpo alone stimulated limited clonal growth, but synergized with c-kit ligand (KL), flt3 ligand (FL), or IL-3 to potently enhance clonogenic growth. Whereas KL and FL in combination stimulated the clonal growth of only 3% of CD34+ CD38- cells, 40% of CD34+ CD38- cells were recruited by KL+FL+Tpo, demonstrating that Tpo promotes the growth of a high fraction of CD34+ CD38- progenitor cells. Additional cytokines (IL-3, IL-6, and erythropoietin (Epo)) did not significantly enhance clonal growth above that observed in response to KL+FL+Tpo. In contrast, Tpo enhanced clonogenic growth in response to KL+FL+IL-3+IL-6+Epo by as much as 80%, implicating a key role for this cytokine in early hemopoiesis. Importantly, we also demonstrate that the majority of Tpo-recruited CD34+ CD38- progenitor cells have a multilineage differentiation potential, and that Tpo promotes prolonged expansion of multipotent progenitors. Specifically, whereas progenitor cells were reduced in cultures containing only KL+FL, addition of Tpo resulted in 40-fold expansion of multipotent progenitors following a 14-day incubation. Finally, we identified inhibitors of Tpo-induced progenitor cell growth, in that TGF-beta as well as TNF-alpha almost completely abrogated the growth of CD34+ CD38- progenitor cells in response to Tpo alone as well as KL+FL+Tpo.


Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





5169 - 5177


Animals, Antigens, CD34, Bone Marrow, Bone Marrow Cells, Cell Differentiation, Cell Lineage, Cells, Cultured, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Humans, Mice, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Recombinant Proteins, Thrombopoietin, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3