The effects of thrombopoietin (TPO; c-mpl ligand), FLT3/FLK-2 ligand (FL), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) on the survival of murine hematopoietic long- term reconstituting cells (LTRC) were studied by using lineage-negative, Sca- 1-positive, c-kit-positive (Lin-Sca-1+c-kit+) marrow cells from 5- fluorouracil-treated mice. We tested the ability of these cytokines to maintain the viability of LTRC by transplanting the cultured cells to lethally irradiated Ly-5 congenic mice together with compromised marrow cells. As a single agent, only TPO could maintain the LTRC. Neither IL-6 nor FL was effective by itself, but they acted synergistically to maintain the LTRC. We examined whether the maintenance of LTRC by these cytokines was due to the survival of stem cells or was the result of active cell divisions and self-renewal. To monitor cell division, we used membrane dye PKH26. Enriched cells were stained with PKH26 on day 0 and incubated in suspension culture with TPO or with IL-6 and FL for 7 days. On day 7, PKH26(low) and PKH26(high) cells were prepared by sorting and their in vivo reconstituting abilities were tested by transplantation into lethally irradiated Ly-5 congenic mice together with compromised marrow cells. PKH26(high) populations cultured with both TPO alone and the combination of IL-6 and FL showed greater reconstitution activity than that of PKH26(low) populations. These data indicate that TPO alone and the combination of IL-6 and FL can support the survival of stem cells without stimulating their active cell proliferation.
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