Ex vivo culture of CD34+/Lin-/DR- cells in stroma-derived soluble factors, interleukin-3, and macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha maintains not only myeloid but also lymphoid progenitors in a novel switch culture assay
We have demonstrated that long-term culture initiating cells (LTC-IC) are maintained in a stroma noncontact (SNC) culture where progenitors are separated from stroma by a microporous membrane and LTC-IC can proliferate if the culture is supplemented with interleukin-3 (IL-3) and macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha (MIP-1alpha). We hypothesize that the same conditions, which result in LTC-IC proliferation, may also maintain lymphoid progenitors. Natural killer (NK) cells are of lymphoid lineage and a stromal-based culture can induce CD34+/Lin-/DR- cells to differentiate along the NK cell lineage. We developed a three-step switch culture assay that was required to demonstrate the persistence of NK progenitors in CD34+/Lin-/DR- cells assayed in SNC cultures supplemented with IL-3 and MIP-1alpha. When CD34+/Lin-/DR- progeny from the SNC culture were plated sequentially into "NK cell progenitor switch" conditions (contact with stromal ligands, hydrocortisone-containing long-term culture medium, IL-2, IL-7, and stem cell factor [SCF]) followed by "NK cell differentiation" conditions (contact with stromal ligands, human serum, no hydrocortisone, and IL-2), significant numbers of CD56+/CD3- NK resulted, which exhibited cytotoxic activity against K562 targets. All steps are required because a switch from SNC cultures with IL-3 and MIP-1alpha directly to "NK cell differentiation" conditions failed to yield NK cells suggesting that critical step(s) in lymphoid commitment were missing. Additional experiments showed that CD34+/CD33- cells present after SNC cultures with IL-3 and MIP-1alpha, which contained up to 30% LTC-IC, are capable of NK outgrowth using the three-step switch culture. Limiting dilution analysis from these experiments showed a cloning frequency within the cultured CD34+/CD33- population similar to fresh sorted CD34+/Lin-/DR- cells. However, after addition of FLT-3 ligand, the frequency of primitive progenitors able to develop along the NK lineage increased 10-fold. In conclusion, culture of primitive adult marrow progenitors ex vivo in stroma-derived soluble factors, MIP-1alpha, and IL-3 maintains both very primitive myeloid (LTC-IC) and lymphoid (NK) progenitors and suggests that these conditions may support expansion of human hematopoietic stem cells. Addition of FLT-3 ligand to IL-2, IL-7 SCF, and stromal factors are important in early stages of NK development.