The expression and function of a receptor tyrosine kinase, c-kit, in the adult bone marrow of the mouse were investigated by using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the extracellular domain of murine c-kit. In adult C57BL/6 mouse, 7.8% of total bone marrow cells express c-kit on their surface. Half of the c-kit+ cells do not express lineage markers including Mac-1, Gr-1, TER-119, and B220, while the remainder coexpress myeloid lineage markers such as Mac-1 and Gr-1. After c-kit+ cells were removed from the bone marrow cell preparation, hemopoietic progenitor cells reactive to IL-3, GM-CSF, or M-CSF and also those which give rise to spleen colonies in irradiated recipients disappeared almost completely. Thus, most hemopoietic progenitors in the adult bone marrow express c-kit. To investigate whether or not c-kit has any role in the hemopoiesis of adult bone marrow, we took the advantage of one of the anti-c-kit mAbs that can antagonize the function of c-kit. As early as two days after the injection of 1 milligram of an antagonistic antibody, ACK2, almost all hemopoietic progenitor cells disappeared from the bone marrow, which eventually resulted in the absence of mature myeloid and erythroid cells in the bone marrow. These results provide direct evidence that c-kit is an essential molecule for constitutive intramarrow hemopoiesis, especially for the self-renewal of hemopoietic progenitor cells at various stages of differentiation.

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