Thrombopoetin (TPO) is a primary regulator of megakaryocyte and platelet production. However, studies in c-mpl-deficient mice and in congenital amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia-patients with non-sense c-mpl mutation who develop pancytopenia during the first years of life suggest that TPO also play an important role on early hematopoesis. We demonstrated that TPO enhances FLK-1 (VEGF-receptor) expression on hemangioblasts during murine embryonic stem cell differentiation in embryoid body-liquid cultures (up to 73%). To extend our studies, we investigated the TPO signaling in FLK-1 positive cells. ES cells at different time point of differentiation showed that TPO enhances c-mpl-, BMP4-, Notch-, HOXB4-, HOXB9-, HOXA10-, Runx1-and CD133- mRNA expression. To investigate mesoderm formation, we also analyzed GATA-4 and T-brachyury mRNA level expression. Interestingly, we found that TPO alone did not increase GATA-4- and T-brachyury- mRNA expression, suggesting that TPO requires other cytokines to form the mesoderm. We also found that TPO could maintain VEGF-A mRNA expression level during differentiation of ES-cells. We hypothesize that VEGF expression together with c-mpl expression is required in hematopoetic differentiation of ES cell. This activity of Tpo was also observed during Rhesus monkey embryonic stem cell differentiation into hematopoetic cell. Only combinations of TPO and VEGF were capable of increasing CD34 positive hematopoietic progenitor cells (up to 8%), but TPO alone failed to induce high levels of CD34+ cell. In addition, analysis of gene expression during hemangioblast development demonstrated that TPO was capable of increasing the expression of VEGF receptors (FLK-1) and TPO receptors (c-mpl) in mice and primates. The in-vitro differentiation of mouse and rhesus monkey ES cells provides an opportunity to better understand the role of TPO in the early stage of hematopoietic development from ES cells to mature hematopoietic cells.

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