We investigated the effect of interleukin-6 (IL-6) on murine megakaryocytopoiesis in a serum-free culture system. The addition of IL- 6 to a culture containing interleukin-3 (IL-3) resulted in a significant increase in the number of megakaryocyte colonies by bone marrow cells of normal mice. The megakaryocytic progenitors that survive exposure to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) exhibited a more significant response to IL-6 and IL-3. Polyclonal anti-IL-6 antibody neutralized the stimulatory effect of IL-6 on megakaryocyte colony growth supported by IL-3. Delayed addition experiments and replating experiments of blast cell colonies showed that megakaryocytic progenitors are supported by IL-3 in the early stage of the development but require IL- 6 for their subsequent proliferation and differentiation. In addition, IL-6 increased the size of megakaryocytes in granulocyte-macrophage- megakaryocyte colonies. The combination of granulocyte colony- stimulating factor or granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor with IL-3 resulted in an increase in the granulocyte-macrophage colony growth of bone marrow cells of 5-FU-treated mice or normal mice, respectively, but had little effect on the enhancement of pure and mixed megakaryocyte colony growth. These results suggest that IL-6 plays an important role in murine megakaryocytopoiesis.

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