Bone marrow cells adopt the phenotype of other cells by spontaneous cell fusion

Nature. 2002 Apr 4;416(6880):542-5. doi: 10.1038/nature730. Epub 2002 Mar 13.


Recent studies have demonstrated that transplanted bone marrow cells can turn into unexpected lineages including myocytes, hepatocytes, neurons and many others. A potential problem, however, is that reports discussing such 'transdifferentiation' in vivo tend to conclude donor origin of transdifferentiated cells on the basis of the existence of donor-specific genes such as Y-chromosome markers. Here we demonstrate that mouse bone marrow cells can fuse spontaneously with embryonic stem cells in culture in vitro that contains interleukin-3. Moreover, spontaneously fused bone marrow cells can subsequently adopt the phenotype of the recipient cells, which, without detailed genetic analysis, might be interpreted as 'dedifferentiation' or transdifferentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Fusion*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Interleukin-3 / pharmacology
  • Karyotyping
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Phenotype
  • Ploidies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cells / cytology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Genetic Markers
  • Interleukin-3
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins