Granulocytes with the hybrid characteristics of eosinophils and basophils have been identified in the bone marrow and peripheral blood of humans with myeloid leukemias. We now describe a technique by which such hybrid granulocytes can be developed in vitro from normal cord blood precursors cultured in the presence of recombinant human interleukin (rhIL) 3 (350 pM) and rhIL-5 (200 pM) in a plastic vessel coated with Matrigel. After 14 d in culture, 90 +/- 3% (mean +/- standard error of the mean) of the nonadherent cells cultured in the Matrigel-coated flasks contained both eosinophil and basophil granules, as indicated by staining with Wright's and Giemsa stains. Of the nonadherent cells, 93 +/- 1% contained cyanide-resistant peroxidase, and 88 +/- 2% were toluidine blue-positive, characteristic of eosinophil and basophil granules, respectively. Transmission electron micrographs showed hybrid cells containing ultrastructurally distinct eosinophil granules with developing crystalline cores and basophil granules with reticular structures. These 14-d cord blood-derived cell cultures showed strong hybridization signals for eosinophil-derived neurotoxin by RNA blot analysis and contained 78 ng histamine per 10(6) cells. When the granulocytes were removed from cytokine-containing medium and suspended without Matrigel in RPMI 1640 medium containing 10% fetal calf serum (FCS), more than 80% of the granulocytes excluded trypan blue for as long as 5 d, and 93% had developed into eosinophils at 6 d. Conditioned medium prepared over 48 h from the 14-d cell cultures (hybrid granulocytes) sustained the 4-d viability in vitro of 78% of peripheral blood eosinophils from atopic donors. In comparison, 13% survived in RPMI 1640 containing 10% FCS alone. This viability-sustaining activity was nearly completely neutralized by an anti-granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) antibody and was only minimally reduced by anti-IL-3 or IL-5. Thus, cells possessing both eosinophil and basophil granules by both histochemical and ultrastructural analysis can be developed from normal progenitors in vitro in response to eosinophilopoietic cytokines and Matrigel. Their subsequent spontaneous development into mature eosinophils suggests that hybrid granulocytes are part of a normal developmental sequence during eosinophilopoiesis. Furthermore, these hybrid granulocytes are capable of autoregulation through elaboration of GM-CSF, which sustains their viability.

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