Bone marrow transplantation is an accepted therapy for hematologic malignancies, aplastic anemia, metabolic disorders, and solid tumors. However, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and failure of engraftment have limited the widespread application of this technology to nonmalignant disease states. The use of purified bone marrow stem cells has been suggested as an approach to promote engraftment yet avoid GVHD. Although bone marrow stem cells, purified by cell sorting, engraft and repopulate lethally irradiated genetically identical recipients, they do not engraft in major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-disparate allogeneic recipients. We report for the first time the characterization of a novel cell population of donor bone marrow origin, separate from the hematopoietic stem cell, that facilitates engraftment of purified allogeneic bone marrow stem cells in an MHC- specific fashion without causing GVHD. Although 1,000 purified stem cells (c-kit+/Sca-1+/lineage-) reliably repopulate syngeneic mouse recipients, 10 times that number do not engraft in MHC-disparate allogeneic recipients. The addition of as few as 30,000 facilitating cells (CD8+/CD45R+/TCR-) is sufficient to permit engraftment of purified stem cells in MHC-disparate recipients. The cell surface phenotype of this purified cellular population differs significantly from other characterized lineages of lymphoid or myeloid origin. Based on multiparameter rare-events cell sorting, the facilitating fraction is CD8+, CD3+, CD45R+, Thy 1+, class IIdim/intermediate but alpha beta- TCR- and gamma delta-TCR-. This cellular population comprises approximately 0.4% of the total bone marrow and is separate from the hematopoietic stem cell. The coadministration of purified facilitating cells plus stem cells to optimize engraftment yet avoid GVHD may expand the potential application of bone marrow transplantation to disease states in which the morbidity and mortality associated with conventional BMT cannot be justified.

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