Adhesive interactions with the extracellular matrix of the bone marrow (BM) stroma are of critical importance in the regulation of hematopoiesis. In part, these interactions are presumed to play an important role in retaining CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) within the BM environment, in close proximity with BM stromal cells and the cytokines they produce. Evidence of a more direct role for cell adhesion in the regulation of hematopoiesis is provided by recent data showing that adhesive interactions can also provide important costimulatory signals. We have previously shown that normal CD34+ HPCs express high levels of fibronectin (Fn) receptors very late antigen-4 (VLA-4) and VLA-5 in a low-affinity state, which do not allow HPCs to strongly adhere on immobilized Fn, and that cytokines such as interleukin-3, granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor, and stem cell factor transiently activate these receptors, providing HPCs with an adhesive phenotype on Fn. Thus, knowledge of the functional states of adhesion receptors is critical to our understanding of the physiological mechanisms responsible for the regulation of normal hematopoiesis. Herein, we show that combinations of cytokines that synergize to stimulate the proliferation of CD34+ HPCs result in additive stimulation of the adhesion of these cells to Fn. Thus, the activation level of Fn receptors expressed by normal CD34+ HPCs is highly correlated with their proliferative state, suggesting a functional link between these two events. Therefore, we propose a 2- step model with an initial activation of VLA-4 and VLA-5 generated by cytokine receptors that is followed by a secondary signal resulting from Fn binding to VLA-4 and VLA-5, which may cooperate with those generated by cytokine receptors.

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