To determine whether N-ras expression is required at specific stages of the process of in vitro normal human hematopoiesis, adherent- and T lymphocyte-depleted mononuclear marrow cells (A-T-MNC) or highly purified progenitors (CD34+ cells) were cultured in semisolid medium, under conditions that favor the growth of specific progenitor cell types, after exposure to N-ras sense and antisense oligodeoxynucleotides. N-ras antisense, but not sense, oligodeoxynucleotide treatment of A-T-MNC and CD34+ cells resulted in a significantly decreased number of granulocyte/macrophage colony-forming units (CFU-GM) induced by interleukin 3 (IL-3) or granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and of macrophage colonies (CFU-M) induced by M-CSF, but not of granulocytic colonies induced with G-CSF or IL-5. However, the same treatment significantly inhibited colony formation induced by each of the above factors in combination with IL-3. Megakaryocytic colony (CFU-Meg) formation from A-T-MNC or CD34+ cells in the presence of IL-6 + IL-3 + erythropoietin (Epo) was also markedly decreased after antisense oligodeoxynucleotide treatment. Erythroid colonies derived from A-T-MNC in the presence of Epo (CFU-E) were not inhibited upon antisense treatment, whereas those arising from A-T-MNC or CD34+ cells in the presence of IL-3 + Epo (BFU-E) were markedly affected. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that distinct signal transduction pathways, involving N-ras or not, are activated by different growth factors in different hematopoietic progenitor cells.

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