The interleukin 21 (IL-21) receptor is expressed on T-cells, B-cells, and natural killer cells, and IL-21 is critical for regulating immunoglobulin production in vivo in cooperation with IL-4. So far, however, little is known about a role for IL-21 outside the immune system. We investigated the effect of IL-21 on hematopoiesis in vivo by using the hydrodynamics gene-delivery method. Overexpression of IL-21 increases Sca-1+ cells in the periphery and spleen. It also increases the numbers of C-Kit+, Sca-1+, and lineage-/low (KSL) cells and colony-forming units-granulocyte- macrophage (CFU-GM) in the spleen, indicating the expansion of hematopoietic progenitor cells. We found that even in RAG2-/- mice, which lack mature T-cells and B-cells, IL-21 induced an increase in KSL cells and CFU-GM in the spleen. These results demonstrate that IL-21 can induce the expansion of hematopoietic progenitor cells in vivo, even in the absence of mature T-cells and B-cells.
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