Serum contains many growth factors and nutrients that stimulate colony formation of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) in semisolid cultures. In the absence of serum, no proliferation of HPCs could be obtained in semisolid medium cultures of partially purified bone marrow cells in the presence of multiple hematopoietic growth factors, insulin, cholesterol, and purified clinical-grade human albumin. This appeared to be due to a suppressive activity induced by monocyte- and T lymphocyte-depleted accessory cells on CD34+ HPCs. Serum-free conditioned medium from the bladder carcinoma cellline 5637 could replace serum to support the growth of HPCs in these cultures. After gel filtration and reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography of 5637 supernatants, this activity could be attributed to a 15-kD protein that was further identified by NH2-terminal sequence analysis as the serine proteinase inhibitor antileukoproteinase (ALP). The growth-supportive activity from the 5637 conditioned medium and the (partially) purified fractions could be completely neutralized by a polyclonal rabbit IgG antibody against human ALP (huALP). Similar supportive effects on the growth of HPC could be obtained in the presence of recombinant huALP. We demonstrated that the COOH-terminal domain of ALP containing the proteinase inhibitory activity was responsible for this effect. alpha-1 proteinase inhibitor was capable of similar support of in vitro HPC growth. These results illustrate that proteinase inhibitors play an important role in the in vitro growth of hematopoietic cells by the neutralization of proteinases produced by bone marrow accessory cells. This may be of particular relevance for in vitro expansion of human hematopoietic stem cells in serum-free media.

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