Soluble steel factor (SF) is a potent stimulator of hematopoietic progenitor cell proliferation in vitro, and cytokine combinations that include SF can support extensive expansions of hematopoietic cells. Recently, we showed that very primitive progenitor cells from normal human bone marrow require exposure to very high concentrations of cytokines to maintain their primitive status while proliferating. These cells also display higher cell-specific cytokine uptake rates than more differentiated types of hematopoietic cells. As a first step toward identifying the mechanisms involved in mediating such cytokine dose-dependent effects, we have now investigated the kinetics of SF receptor (c-kit) internalization by human Mo7e cells exposed to different extracellular concentrations of soluble SF. Transfer of Mo7e cells to a higher concentration of SF caused an initially rapid downregulation of cell surface c-kit which was accompanied by a rapid depletion of extracellular SF. Confocal microscopy showed a concomitant increase in the number and intensity of intracellular c-kit aggregates. After the first 30 min, the cells continued to deplete SF from the medium but at a much slower rate. During this period, there was a gradual recovery of expression of c-kit on the cell surface. A mathematical analysis of bulk medium to cell-surface SF-mass transport indicated that the cytokine-depletion rates measured were not likely to have significantly depleted the SF concentration in the microenvironment of the cells. Taken together, these results underscore the importance of monitoring and appropriately regulating cytokine concentrations in hematopoietic cell expansion cultures. They may also help to explain the different biological responses exhibited by primitive hematopoietic cells exposed to different types and concentrations of cytokines for periods of days.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.