School of Health Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, 62–68 Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1DJ, England, U.K. Fax: 01902 321161, E-mail: H.T.Hassan@wlv.ac.uk


Normal human bone marrow stroma cells include stem cells for both haemopoietic and osteochondrogenic lineages and express both bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I and type II receptors. As a member of the TGF-β super-family, BMP-6 binds to both BMP type I and type II receptors and is involved in the developmental processes of renal and hepatic systems as well as of human foetal intestine. Also, BMP-6 induces osteoblastic differentiation of pluripotent mesenchymal cells and is an autocrine stimulator of chondrocyte differentiation. The present study was carried out to investigate the effect of BMP-6 on human cobblestone-area-forming cells (CAFC), that represent the functional primitive repopulating haemopoietic stem cell in long-term bone marrow culture. Also, the effect of BMP-6 on marrow stroma production of interleukin-6, −11 and their common receptor gp130 that is expressed in haemopoietic stem cells and is indispensable for their proliferation and tri-lineage differentiation was examined. Moreover, the effect of BMP-6 on marrow stroma release of soluble adhesion molecule VCAM-1 mediating the primitive haemopoietic stem cell adhesion to marrow stroma was examined. The number of CAFC was significantly reduced after BMP-6 treatment from 88±10 per 105cells in control cultures in a dose dependent manner to only 48±3 per 105cells in 50ng/ml BMP-6-treated cultures, P< 0.01. Quantitative ELISA measurement revealed 50ng/ml BMP-6 was able to significantly reduce IL-6 and IL-11 production from marrow stroma, P< 0.01. Also, BMP-6 significantly increased soluble gp130 release by 7.4-fold in 50ng/ml BMP-6-treated marrow stroma cultures. The profound rapid increase in this natural antagonist of human IL-6 cytokine family may reduce the gp130 signaling. Also, the soluble VCAM-1 released increased by two-fold in 50ng/ml BMP-6-treated marrow stroma cultures. The marked increase in the soluble form may exert an antagonist effect on the function of VCAM-1 (ligand for VLA4). Recently, blocking the VLA4/VCAM-1 adhesion pathway was shown to mobilise haemopoietic CD34 positive cells in normal individuals. Also, we previously observed a significantly lower expression of VLA4 (CD49d) on G-CSF-mobilised blood CD34 positive cells than on bone marrow CD34 positive cells before mobilisation in the same normal donors. Since BMP are currently being used in clinical trials for bone repair and fracture healing, the present results suggest a possible role for BMP-6 in mobilising CD34 positive cells for transplantation. Further in vitro tests are required to evaluate this potential mobilising role of BMP-6 in human long-term bone marrow culture.