The presence of heterogeneous erythroid progenitor cells, contaminant cells, or serum may alter erythroid colony development in vitro. To obtain highly purified colony-forming units-erythroid (CFU-E), we cultured partially purified human blood burst-forming units-erythroid (BFU-E) in methylcellulose with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) for 7 d and generated cells that consisted of 30-60% CFU-E, but no BFU-E. A serum-free medium was used that allowed development of the same number of erythroid colonies as serum containing medium, but with a greater percentage of larger colonies. This medium consisted of delipidated crystalline bovine serum albumin, iron saturated transferrin, lipid suspension, fibrinogen, thrombin, Iscove's modified Dulbecco's medium/F-12[HAM], and insulin plus rHuEPO. When CFU-E were cultured in a limiting dilution assay and the percentage of nonresponder wells was plotted against cell concentration, both serum-free cultures and serum-containing cultures yielded overlapping straight lines through the origin indicating that CFU-E development did not depend on accessory cells and that insulin acted directly on the CFU-E. Human recombinant interleukin 3 (IL-3) and/or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor had no effect on CFU-E growth, while they markedly enhanced BFU-E growth. Physiological concentrations of recombinant human insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) enhanced CFU-E growth in the absence of insulin and, together with rHuEPO in serum-free medium, provided a plating efficiency equal to that of serum-containing medium. Limiting dilution analysis in serum-free medium with IGF-I showed a straight line through the origin indicating that IGF-I also acted directly on the CFU-E and not through an effect on accessory cells. These data demonstrate that CFU-E do not require accessory cells, but do require IGF-I and/or insulin which act directly on the CFU-E.


K Sawada, S B Krantz, E N Dessypris, S T Koury, S T Sawyer


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