Raf-1 is a 74-kD serine/threonine kinase located in the cell cytoplasm that is activated by phosphorylation in cells stimulated with a variety of mitogens and growth factors, including hematopoietic growth factors. Using c-raf antisense oligonucleotides to block Raf-1 expression, we have established that Raf-1 is required for hematopoietic growth factor-induced proliferation of murine cell lines stimulated by growth factors whose receptors are members of several different structural classes: (a) the hematopoietin receptor family, including interleukin (IL)-2, IL-3, IL-4, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and erythropoietin; (b) the tyrosine kinase receptor class, including Steel factor and CSF-1; and (c) IL-6, leukemia inhibitory factor, and oncostatin M, whose receptors include the gp130 receptor subunit. Although results of previous experiments had suggested that IL-4 does not phosphorylate or activate the Raf-1 kinase, c-raf antisense oligonucleotides inhibited IL-4-induced proliferation of both myeloid and T cell lines, and IL-4 activated Raf-1 kinase activity in an IL-4-dependent myeloid cell line. In colony assays, c-raf antisense oligonucleotides completely inhibited colony formation of unseparated normal murine bone marrow cells stimulated with either IL-3 or CSF-1 and partially inhibited cells stimulated with GM-CSF. In addition, c-raf antisense oligonucleotides completely inhibited both IL-3- and GM-CSF-induced colony formation of CD34+ purified human progenitors stimulated with these same growth factors. Thus, Raf-1 is required for growth factor-induced proliferation of leukemic murine progenitor cell lines and normal murine and human bone marrow-derived progenitor cells regardless of the growth factor used to stimulate cell growth.

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