The cell-surface receptor c-kit and its cognate ligand stem-cell factor (SCF) or steel factor (SLF) are important for the maintenance of hematopoiesis both in vitro and in vivo. Transforming growth factor- beta (TGF-beta) has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of SLF-mediated synergistic growth of murine Lin-Sca-1+ progenitor cells, as well as more committed progenitors. In the present study, we examined the regulation of c-kit mRNA and cell-surface expression by TGF-beta. Among the murine hematopoietic progenitor cells tested, the myeloid cell line FDC-P1 and the mast-cell line MC-6, as well as progenitor-enriched bone marrow cells, constitutively expressed functional cell-surface c-kit. Treatment of these progenitor cell lines and primary progenitor cells with TGF-beta resulted in downregulation of cell-surface c-kit expression. This effect was not a secondary event of cell-cycle status. TGF-beta inhibition was dose- and time-dependent, with 50% inhibition seen between 0.3 to 3 ng/mL TGF-beta and maximal inhibition at 30 ng/mL. Using the FDC-P1 cell line, we observed that the inhibition of cell-surface c-kit expression by TGF-beta is preceded by a marked reduction in c-kit mRNA levels starting 2 hours after TGF-beta treatment, and reaches a maximum by 6 hours. The inhibition in steady- state c-kit mRNA levels is explained, in part, by a decrease in the half-life of c-kit transcripts (2 to 4 hours for control cells v 0.5 to 1.5 hours for TGF-beta-treated cells). These findings suggest that TGF- beta regulates the responsiveness of murine hematopoietic progenitors to SLF through a decrease in c-kit message stability leading to decreased cell-surface expression.

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