The aim of these studies was to determine the sensitivity of B lymphocyte lineage precursor cells in mice to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Selective effects could be very helpful in dissecting precursor-product relationships between these and the rare multipotential stem cells from which they derive. Numbers and functions of particular types of cells were determined at intervals after a single treatment (3 mg) and, as expected, myeloid-committed stem cells were very severely affected. Day 8 spleen colony-forming cells (CFU-S) and colony-stimulating factor-responsive macrophage progenitors were reduced by 98% within 24 hr, whereas presumptive early stem cells (day 14 CFU-S) were much more resistant. B cells, which were probably recently formed in bone marrow and which are not thought to be actively dividing, were also 5-FU-sensitive, but perhaps less so than pre-B cells and immunoglobulin-negative lymphocytes bearing a B lineage marker. Approximately 5 wk were required for the normal cellular composition of marrow to return to normal. Transplantation of marrow from 5-FU-treated mice suggested that the slow regeneration of B lymphocytes might partially result from residual drug effects or damage to microenvironmental elements which are required for B lineage differentiation. Acute reductions of lymphocytes in the thymus were also documented, and the larger cells declined most rapidly and regenerated most slowly in that tissue. Of particular interest was the differential susceptibility of B cells in various lymphoid tissues to 5-FU. Whereas lymph node B cells were minimally affected, one-half of the splenic B cells disappeared within 48 hr of drug injection. Intrinsic differences in 5-FU sensitivity were confirmed by treatment of lymphocytes in vitro, and this suggests that particular B cell sets may be metabolically distinct. This drug should find additional experimental application in studies of B lymphocyte formation and functional heterogeneity.

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