Image_4_Accumulation of Multipotent Hematopoietic Progenitors in Peripheral Lymphoid Organs of Mice Over-expressing Interleukin-7 and Flt3-Ligand.eps

Interleukin-7 (IL-7) and Flt3-ligand (FL) are two cytokines important for the generation of B cells, as manifested by the impaired B cell development in mice deficient for either cytokine or their respective receptors and by the complete block in B cell differentiation in the absence of both cytokines. IL-7 is an important survival and proliferation factor for B cell progenitors, whereas FL acts on several early developmental stages, prior to B cell commitment. We have generated mice constitutively over-expressing both IL-7 and FL. These double transgenic mice develop splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy characterized by tremendously enlarged lymph nodes even in young animals. Lymphoid, myeloid and dendritic cell numbers are increased compared to mice over-expressing either of the two cytokines alone and the effect on their expansion is synergistic, rather than additive. B cell progenitors, early progenitors with myeloid and lymphoid potential (EPLM), common lymphoid progenitors (CLP) and lineage, Sca1+, kit+ (LSK) cells are all increased not only in the bone marrow but also in peripheral blood, spleen and even lymph nodes. When transplanted into irradiated wild-type mice, lymph node cells show long-term multilineage reconstitution, further confirming the presence of functional hematopoietic progenitors therein. Our double transgenic mouse model shows that sustained and combined over-expression of IL-7 and FL leads to a massive expansion of most bone marrow hematopoietic progenitors and to their associated presence in peripheral lymphoid organs where they reside and potentially differentiate further, thus leading to the synergistic increase in mature lymphoid and myeloid cell numbers. The present study provides further in vivo evidence for the concerted action of IL-7 and FL on lymphopoiesis and suggests that extramedullary niches, including those in lymph nodes, can support the survival and maintenance of hematopoietic progenitors that under physiological conditions develop exclusively in the bone marrow.