The recent identification of a leukemia-associated inhibitory activity (LIA) against granulocyte-macrophage progenitor cells (CFU-GM) as acidic isoferritins has now led to detection of this activity in normal bone marrow and blood cells. Detection of this activity depends on stimulation of CFU-GM by granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulatory factors (GM-CSF), and some conditioned media (CM) sources of GM-CSF (human placental and monocyte, mouse macrophage and WEHI-3) contained low levels of acidic isoferritin that lowered colony formation. Inactivation or removal of this activity increased the stimulatory capacity of the CM. CM depleted of acidic isoferritins or CM originally devoid of this activity (human GCT, 5637, Mo, lymphocytes: mouse L cells or pokeweed-mitogen-stimulated spleen cells) increased the sensitivity of the assay to detect acidic isoferritin inhibitory activity. This activity was selectively contained and released from normal monocytes and macrophages. Restriction of this activity to mononuclear phagocytes was substantiated, as only continuous cell lines of monocytes and macrophages or lines capable of induction to this lineage contained and released acidic isoferritin inhibitory activity. The cells of origin and target cells of action suggest that acidic isoferritin-inhibitory activity can be considered as a negative feedback regulator, at least in vitro.

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