The UT-7 cell line was established from a patient with a megakaryoblastic leukemia (Komatsu et al, Cancer Res 51:341, 1991). Its proliferation is strictly dependent on the presence of hematopoietic growth factors including erythropoietin (Epo), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM- CSF), and interleukin-3 (IL-3). We investigated the differentiation capacities of this cell line under the action of several growth factors, using immunomarkers, flow cytometry, and ultrastructural techniques. In the presence of GM-CSF and IL-3, eosinophil and basophil promyelocytes were detected, as well as a few cells with erythroid and megakaryocytic (MK) differentiation features. In contrast, Epo induced a marked erythroid differentiation with an increase of glycophorin A expression, accompanied by a few hemoglobinized cells. Differentiation induced by the growth factors took 24 to 48 hours to begin, and increased with cell passages to a plateau at 2 weeks of culture. However, this was not only due to a cell selection because the differential effects of Epo and GM-CSF were observed from a single cell clone and the phenotype could be reversed by opposite growth factors, even after a long period of culture. We subsequently investigated the phenotype of UT-7 in the presence of combinations of Epo, IL-3, and GM- CSF, and showed that GM-CSF and IL-3 act predominantly over Epo. This effect was mediated by a rapid downmodulation of Epo receptors by GM-CSF at messenger RNA and binding sites levels, without a change in receptor affinities. On the other hand, Epo had no effect on number and affinity of GM-CSF receptors. This study shows that UT-7 is a growth factor-dependent pluripotent cell line in which commitment may be directed by a hierarchical action of growth factors through an early and rapid transmodulation of growth factor receptors.
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