For 18 mo, we derived 18 cell lines from 11 donors with various clinical profiles ranging from normal to leukemic. Suspension cultures were initiated with 1 X 10(6) mononuclear blood cells/ml of nutrient medium containing 10% human serum and 10% lectin-stimulated human lymphocyte conditioned medium. The cultures were monitored weekly by morphological analyses of Wright-Giemsa-stained cell preparations. All successful cultures showed a significant decline in viability during the first 3-4 wk with rate "lymphoid" cells observed in mitosis. Within the next 2 wk, the proliferating cells gave rise to a rapidly expanding population of mononuclear cells. As the cultures expanded, cell morphology became heterogeneous with respect to cell size and nuclear ploidy, with an accumulation of giant multinuclear cells that were suggestive of megakarocytes. Even though the cells did not have the classical morphology of mature platelet-forming megakaryocytes, 90% of the cells within a cell line were positive by direct or indirect immunofluorescence for the platelet membrane glycoproteins IIb and IIIa; for surface markers HLA-Dr and B2-microglobulin; for intracellular platelet-derived growth factor and platelet factor IV; and for membrane affinity or binding with serum platelet-derived growth factor and platelet factor IV. These results suggest that a blood precursor cell, most likely a primitive megakaryoblast, was isolated from the peripheral blood and was provided with an optimal culture environment for sustained growth. These cells did not mature to a more differentiated stage, perhaps owing to regulatory factor deficiencies in this in vitro system. The remarkable frequency of obtaining cell lines with megakaryocyte properties from normal peripheral blood and the capacity of some normal donors to repeatedly yield these cell lines make this cell culture system indeed unique by being selective for putative megakaryocyte precursors
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