Endothelial cells are a major component of the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment that regulate the trafficking and homing of hematopoietic progenitor and stem cells. In this paper, we provide evidence that BM endothelial cells (BMECs) also support multilineage hematopoiesis by elaboration of soluble cytokines. Hematopoietic progenitor cells incubated in direct contact with BMEC monolayers, or physically separated by microporous membrane, expanded five-fold to sevenfold at 7 days, in the absence of exogenous cytokines. Flow cytometric analysis of proliferating progenitor cells grown in the presence of BMEC monolayers showed that by day 14 of coculture, 70% to 80% of hematopoietic cells were myeloid, expressing CD15 or CD14, and 14% to 19% were megakaryocytic, expressing GPIIb/IIIa or GPIb. CD34+ cells derived from umbilical cord blood, cultured in the upper chamber of transwell culture plates, as well as the cells grown in direct contact with BMEC monolayers, generated progenitors for up to 70 days. Unstimulated BMEC monolayers constitutively produce interleukin-6, Kit- ligand, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor. These data suggest that BMEC regulate proliferation of hematopoietic progenitor cells and long-term culture initiating cells by elaboration of lineage-specific cytokines.

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