The Tie receptor tyrosine kinase is expressed by human hematopoietic progenitor cells and by a subset of megakaryocytic cells

P Batard, P Sansilvestri, C Scheinecker, W Knapp, N Debili, W Vainchenker, HJ Buhring, MN Monier, E Kukk, J Partanen, MT Matikainen, R Alitalo, J Hatzfeld and K Alitalo


Growth factor receptors in human hematopoietic progenitor cells have become the focus of intense interest, because they may provide tools for the monitoring, enrichment, and expansion of stem cells. We have shown earlier that the Tie receptor tyrosine kinase is expressed in erythroid and megakaryoblastic human leukemia cell lines, in the blood islands of the yolk sac, and in endothelial cells starting from day 8.0 of mouse development. Here, the expression of Tie was studied in human hematopoietic cells of various sources. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were Tie-. However, a large fraction of CD34+ cells from umbilical cord blood (UCB) and bone marrow (BM) expressed tie protein and mRNA. On average, 64% of the fluorescence-activated cell sorting- gated UCB CD34+ cells including CD38- cells and a fraction of cells expressing low levels of c-Kit were Tie+. Also, 30% to 60% of BM CD34+ cells were Tie+, including most of the BM CD34+CD38-, CD34+Thy-1+, and CD34+HLA-DR- cells. Under culture conditions allowing myeloid, erythroid, and/or megakaryocytic differentiation, purified UCB CD34+ cells lost Tie mRNA and protein expression concomitantly with that of CD34; however, a significant fraction of cells expressed Tie during megakaryocytic differentiation. These data suggest that, in humans, the Tie receptor and presumably its ligand may function at an early stage of hematopoietic cell differentiation.