It has been recently reported that murine hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors express low levels of CD4. In this study, we have investigated by phenotypic and functional analysis whether the CD4 molecule was also present on human hematopoietic progenitors. Unfractionated marrow cells or immunomagnetic bead-purified CD34+ cells were analyzed by two-color fluorescence with an anti-CD4 and an anti- CD34 monoclonal antibody (MoAb). A large fraction (25% to 50%) of the CD34+ cells was weakly stained by anti-CD4 antibodies. Moreover, in further experiments analyzing the expression of CD4 in different subpopulations of CD34+ cells, we found that CD4 was predominantly expressed in phenotypically primitive cells (CD34+ CD38-/low CD71low Thy-1high, HLA-DR+/low). However, the presence of CD4 was not restricted to these primitive CD34+ cell subsets and was also detected in a smaller fraction of more mature CD34+ cells exhibiting differentiation markers. Among those, subsets with myelo-monocytic markers (CD13, CD33, CD14, and CD11b) have a higher CD4 expression than the erythroid or megakaryocytic subsets. In vitro functional analysis of the sorted CD34+ subsets in colony assays and long-term culture- initiating cell (LTC-IC) assays confirmed that clonogenic progenitors (colony-forming unit-granulocyte-macrophage, burst-forming unit- erythroid, and colony-forming unit-megakaryocyte) and LTC-IC were present in the CD4low population. However, most clonogenic progenitors were recovered in the CD4- subset, whereas the CD4low fraction was greatly enriched in LTC-IC. In addition, CD4low LTC-IC generated larger numbers of primitive clonogenic progenitors than did CD4- LTC-IC. These observations suggest that, in the progenitor compartment, the CD4 molecule is predominantly expressed on very early cells. The CD4 molecule present on CD34+ cells appeared identical to the T-cell molecule because it was recognized by three MoAbs recognizing different epitopes of the molecule. Furthermore, this CD4 molecule is also functional because the CD34+ CD4low cells are able to bind the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gp120. This observation might be relevant to the understanding of the mechanisms of HIV-induced cytopenias.

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