Philadelphia (Ph1) chromosome-positive clonogenic progenitors usually disappear within 4 to 6 weeks in long-term cultures established from the marrow of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). In contrast, coexisting chromosomally normal hematopoietic cells are relatively well maintained. Thus, even though normal cells are initially undetectable, they may become the predominant population. Recently, we have begun to explore the potential of such cultures as a strategy for preparing CML marrow for autografting, and based on cytogenetic studies of the differential kinetics of Ph1-positive and Ph1-negative clonogenic cells, have chosen a 10-day period in culture to obtain maximal numbers of selectively enriched normal stem cells. Here we present the results of molecular analyses of the cells regenerated in vivo for the initial three CML patients to be treated using this approach by comparison with the differentiated cells generated by continued maintenance of an aliquot of the autograft in vitro (using a slightly modified culture feeding procedure to enhance the production and release of cells into the nonadherent fraction after 4 weeks) for the one patient whose genotype made molecular analysis of clonality status also possible. These analyses showed that cells with a rearranged breakpoint cluster region (BCR) gene were not detectable by Southern blotting in either in vitro or in vivo populations of mature cells that might be assumed to represent the progeny of primitive cells present at the end of the initial 10 days in culture. Production of BCR- negative cells was also shown to be temporally correlated with the appearance of nonclonal hematopoietic cells both in culture and in vivo. These findings provide support for the view that prolonged maintenance of CML marrow cells in long-term culture may allow molecular characterization of both the BCR-genotype and clonality status of cells with in vivo regenerative potential.

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