It was hypothesized that osteoblasts play a central role in hematopoiesis, and it has been shown that osteoblasts produce many factors essential for the survival, renewal, and maturation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). By using human fetal osteoblastic cell line hFOB1.19 as a model of control, we investigated the biological characteristics of osteoblasts derived from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and their hematopoietic supportive function in vitro. MSCs isolated from bone marrow of MDS patients and normal donors were cultured and checked for their morphology, immunophenotype, CFU-F forming capacity and the expression of hematopoietic cytokines. A feeder layer was prepared by osteoblasts induced from 3rd generation of cultured MSCs and treated with mitomycin C. Ficoll-isolated bone marrow mononuclear cell from normal donors were then seeded on the feeder layer to co-culture in vitro without exogenous cytokines. FCM revealed that both MSCs and hFOB cells were positive for CD44, CD73(SH3), CD105(SH2) and CD90 (Thy1), but negative for CD34, CD45, HLA-DR. RT-PCR found that hFOB cells expressed mRNA of SCF, IL-6, IL-11, SDF-1, GM-CSF and G-CSF. MSCs obtained from MDS patients and normal donors were displaying fibroblastoid morphology. Their growth pattern, immunophenotype and CFU-F forming capacity were similar (P >0.05). Without exogenous cytokines, the osteoblasts derived from MDS could sustain GM-CFC survival for at least 3 weeks. The CFU-GM yield from cells in upper layer of co-culture was not different from those of control in hematopoiesis supportive experiments in vitro (P>0.05). RT-PCR clearly demonstrated that the cultured BM-MSCs from normal donor expressed mRNA of SCF, SDF-1, IL-6, and IL-11. As the MSCs differentiated toward osteoblasts, the expression of G-CSF could be detected, whereas GM-CSF remained undetectable. The same expression profile of above cytokines were also seen in osteoblasts induced from BM-MSCs of MDS patients. In conclusion, osteoblasts may play a pivotal role in hematopoiesis. The biological characteristics of osteoblasts from bone marrow of MDS patients were generally not different from those of osteoblasts in bone marrow of normal controls. Both of them could support survival of GM-CFC hematopoietic progenitor cells in vitro, according to their expression of multiple cytokines. These findings suggested that the osteoblasts derived from MDS patients may not be involved in the malignant process.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.