Human bone marrow-derived CD34+ cells were analyzed for the expression of the beta 1-family of integrin adhesion molecules. Integrin alpha 4 beta 1 was consistently expressed by greater than 90% of CD34+ cells, including essentially all assayable granulocyte-macrophage colony- forming cells (CFU-GM) and erythroid bursts (BFU-E) as shown by fluorescence-activated cell sorting studies. Adhesion of highly enriched CD34+ cells to cultured allogeneic marrow stromal cells was largely inhibited both by monoclonal antibody to alpha 4 beta 1 and to vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), a ligand for alpha 4 beta 1. VCAM-1 was found to be expressed by bone marrow stromal elements in vitro both constitutively at low level and at high levels after treatment with cytokines. Induction of VCAM-1 was cytokine- and time- dependent with maximum levels being obtained after 4 hours of exposure to a combination of interleukin-4 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Cytokine-induced stromal cells bound threefold higher numbers of CFU-GM and BFU-E, this increase being abrogated by anti-alpha 4 beta 1 and anti-VCAM-1 antibodies. In addition, the adhesion to stroma of more immature progenitors, the long-term culture initiating cells, also occurred through an alpha 4 beta 1/VCAM-1-dependent mechanism. These studies identify an adhesion mechanism of potential importance in the localization of primitive progenitors within the hematopoietic microenvironment.

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