Two anti-nerve growth factor receptor (LNGFR or p75NGFR) antibodies, Me20.4 and Me8211, label stromal cells with dendritic features in fresh smears and in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded human bone marrow (BM). The LNGFR+ cells have an oval nucleus, a scanty cytoplasm with long dendrites that intermingle with the hematopoietic cells, line the abluminal side of sinus endothelial cells, and provide the scaffold for the hematopoietic marrow. At the electron microscopy level, the immunogold tag labels the body and the long branching dendrites of fibroblast-like cells with scanty cytoplasm containing mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and dense bodies. The LNGFR+ cells are positive for alkaline phosphatase, reticulin, collagen III, vimentin, TE-7, and CD13 but negative for endothelial (vWF, CD34, Pal-E), neural (CD56, neurofilament) and leukocyte markers (CD45, CD68). The LNGFR+ stromal cells appear in the fetal BM before the hematopoietic activity begins, originate from the vessel adventitia, and radiate in the Bm cavity. Long-term BM culture (LTBMC) in vitro contain LNGFR+ stromal cells. We document the presence of RNA message for the low- (LNGFR) and the high- affinity NGF receptor (NTRK1) by using RT-PCR on fresh BM aspirate and on LTBMC. BM biopsies from patients with hematologic fibrogenic diseases and in cytokine-treated cancer patients are evaluated for LNGFR+ cells: the amount of stained cells is correlated with the traditional reticulin stain in cases of myelofibrosis, therapy-related myelodysplasia, leukemia, and detected an increase of stromal cells in cytokine-treated patients. The anti-LNGFR antibodies represent a specific membrane marker for the adventitial reticular cells (ARC) of the human marrow and allow precise evaluation and quantitation of this important BM microenvironment component in vivo and in vitro.

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