Interleukin-3 (IL-3) is a hematopoietic growth factor suggested to be produced by activated T lymphocytes. Meanwhile, supernatants from human thymic stroma could promote the proliferation of myeloid stem cells. Thus, we investigated whether IL-3 accounts for this activity. Therefore, human thymic epithelial cells (TEC), fibroblasts, and adherent cells were isolated, and their culture supernatants assayed for myeloid colony promotion. Only supernatants from thymic epithelial cells supported colony-forming unit growth in semisolid media. This effect decreased following anti-IL-3 monoclonal antibody addition to these cultures. Furthermore, in situ hybridization showed the presence of IL-3 mRNA in epithelial cells. Effect of TEC culture conditions on IL-3 production by these cells was also studied. Together, these data show that IL-3 production is not the exclusive property of human activated T lymphocytes.
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