Human adult hematopoietic stem cells are mostly quiescent or slow cycling. We have previously demonstrated that blocking of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) is able to activate, in the presence of cytokines, primitive quiescent hematopoietic multipotent progenitors which could not grow in a two week semi-solid culture assay (short term culture). We have also shown that anti-TGF-beta1 can up-modulate c-KIT, the receptor of the stem cell factor (steel factor). To elucidate whether TGF-beta1 plays a central role in controlling the quiescence of hematopoietic primitive cells, it was necessary to demonstrate, as detailed in this study, that: (1) whatever the cytokine combination tested, addition of anti-TGF-beta1 releases from quiescence multipotent progenitors with a significantly higher hematopoietic potential than those activated by cytokines alone. (2) Other important cytokine receptors controlling the most primitive hematopoietic cells such as FLT3 and the IL6 receptor (IL6-R) are down-modulated by TGF-beta1 but rapidly up-modulated by anti-TGF-beta1. (3) Anti-TGF-beta1-sensitive multipotent and high proliferative potential progenitors express these cytokine receptors at a low level (FLT3(low) and IL6-Rlow). According to these results, we propose the working model of ‘High Proliferative Potential-Quiescent cells’ to refer to these primitive hematopoietic multipotent progenitors that are highly sensitive to the growth inhibitory effect of TGF-beta1. This model could be valid not only to study the human hematopoietic quiescent progenitors but also for other somatic stem cell systems.

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