In an effort to establish the specificity of the thrombopoietin (TPO) effects on murine multipotential progenitors, we tested the effects of soluble TPO receptor (sTPOR; sMpl) on multilineage colony formation that was supported by a combination of TPO and steel factor (SF). Surprisingly, sTPOR did not suppress colony formation from primitive progenitors. This led to the discovery that sTPOR synergizes with SF or Flt3/Flk2 ligand (FL) to support the formation of various types of hematopoietic colonies including multilineage colonies. The colonies supported by the combination of sTPOR and SF were capable of expressing both myeloid and B-lymphoid potentials. Studies using micromanipulation and serum-free culture showed that the effects of sTPOR and SF on the primitive progenitors are direct, not mediated by contaminating stromal cells, and not dependent on factors present in the serum. TPOR belongs to the cytokine receptor group that includes granulocyte colony-stimulating factor receptor (G-CSFR) and erythropoietin receptor (EPOR). Therefore, we tested the effects of sG-CSFR and sEPOR on primitive progenitors. sG-CSFR, but not sEPOR, was able to synergize with SF or FL in supporting the proliferation of primitive progenitors. The direct effects of the soluble receptors appear to be mediated through interactions with their respective membrane-bound receptors expressed on the primitive hematopoietic progenitors.
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