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Abstract

It was recently reported that transgenic expression in the liver of truncated human Met renders hepatocytes constitutively resistant to apoptosis and reproducibly permits their immortalization. The derived stable cell lines (MMH from Met murine hepatocyte) are highly differentiated and nontransformed. In this report, the capacity of MMHs to support in vitro hematopoiesis is characterized. By reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, the expression by MMHs of cytokines involved in the survival and self-renewal of early progenitor cells (stem cell factor and FLT3 ligand) as well as those acting at different stages of progenitor differentiation (interleukin [IL] 1β, IL-3, leukemia inhibitory factor, IL-6, granulocyte-macrophage colony–stimulating factor, granulocyte colony–stimulating factor, macrophage colony–stimulating factor, and thrombopoietin) was shown. A ribonuclease protection assay further substantiated the presence of at least six cytokine transcripts in MMH lines. Cocultures between MMH layers and progenitor-enriched fetal liver hematopoietic cells resulted in a 40-fold to 80-fold expansion of total hematopoietic cells and in a 2.5-fold expansion of clonogenic progenitors after 1 to 2 weeks. Hematopoiesis was maintained for up to 6 weeks with formation of typical cobblestone cell areas and continuous differentiation of precursor into cells at various degrees of maturation. At 5 weeks of coculture, clonogenic progenitors were maintained at 20% of the input level in coculture with embryonic-derived hepatocytes, showing the ability of hepatocyte feeder layer to support survival and possibly self-renewal of clonogenic progenitors. Therefore, the data emphasize a direct role of the hepatocyte in sustaining hematopoietic cell proliferation and differentiation.