The mechanisms that regulate the commitment of a totipotent stem cell to the megakaryocytic lineage are largely unknown. Using a molecular approach to the study of megakaryocytopoiesis and platelet production, mice in which thrombocytopoiesis could be controlled were produced by targeting the expression of the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase toxigene to megakaryocytes using the regulatory region of the gene encoding the alpha subunit of the platelet integrin alpha IIb beta 3. The programmed eradication of the megakaryocytic lineage was induced by treating transgenic mice bearing the hybrid construct (alpha IIbtk) with the antiherpetic drug ganciclovir (GCV). After 10 d of treatment, the platelet number was reduced by > 94.6%. After discontinuing GCV, the bone marrow was repopulated with megakaryocytes and the platelet count was restored within 7 d. Prolonged GCV treatment induced erythropenia in the transgenic mice. Assays of myeloid progenitor cells in vitro demonstrated that the transgene was expressed in early erythro-megakaryocytic progenitor cells. The reversibility and facility of this system provides a powerful model to determine both the critical events in megakaryocytic and erythroid lineage development and for evaluating the precise role that platelets play in the pathogenesis of a number of vascular occlusive disorders.

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