We have recently demonstrated that tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) potentiates interleukin 3 (IL-3) and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor-induced growth of CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC), and favors the generation of dendritic/Langerhans cells. The stimulatory effect of TNF-alpha was detailed in the present study. Thus, CD34+ HPC entering in cycle (S/G2M) after a 48-h pulse with IL-3 expressed the transferrin receptor (TfR), and fluorescence-activated cell sorter-separated TfR+ HPC, but not TfR-HPC, showed a high proliferative response to IL-3. In contrast, TfR-HPC were found to undergo strong proliferation in response to IL-3 + TNF-alpha. Limiting dilution experiments indicated that TNF-alpha increased both the frequency and the average size of clones generated from TfR-HPC as a result of the development of a higher number of large clones. In contrast, TNF-alpha did not enhance the IL-3-dependent proliferation of TfR+ HPC. Preculturing CD34+ HPC for 48 h with TNF-alpha enhanced the subsequent generation of IL-3-dependent colony-forming units. Precultures with TNF-alpha or cultures with suboptimal doses of TNF-alpha allowed the recruitment of cells with both granulocytic and monocytic differentiation potential. Taken together, our results indicate that TNF-alpha recruits a subpopulation of CD34+ HPC hyposensitive to IL-3, with high proliferative capacity and some features of multipotential progenitors, that are likely to be more primitive than those responding to IL-3 alone.

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