Two bone marrow stromal cell lines isolated from the adherent layer of a Dexter-type long term bone marrow culture differ markedly in their hemopoietic support capacity. S17 supports myelopoiesis and the differentiation of early B cell precursors into B lymphocytes while S10 supports myeloid cell differentiation and not B lymphopoiesis. The identification of a stromal cell line with B cell support capacity prompted an investigation of whether the effects of S17 were mediated via soluble factors. Results presented herein indicate that medium conditioned by S17 but not S10 contains an activity that can induce the expression of the 220,000 m.w. 14.8 antigen and cytoplasmic mu H chain of Ig in B lymphocyte progenitors that have not yet expressed these markers. Bone marrow cells were depleted of 14.8+, cytoplasmic mu+ pre-B cells on antibody-coated petri dishes. After 24-h liquid culture newly generated pre-B cells were enumerated as cells that expressed cytoplasmic mu H chain of Ig but not Ig L chains by immunofluorescence. Expression of Ly5(220) was monitored by 14.8 antibody binding. This pre-B cell differentiation activity was abrogated by digestion with pronase, aminopeptidase, or carboxypeptidase. Isoelectric focusing data revealed the activity to have isoelectric point of 5.9 to 6.2. S17-conditioned medium was fractionated using HPLC and each fraction tested for pre-B cell-generating activity. Fractions collected from a Superose 12 gel filtration column were found to have two peaks of activity associated with molecules of apparent m.w. of approximately 60,000 and 10,000. Virtually identical peaks of activity were observed when medium conditioned by heterogeneous stromal cell cultures was fractionated. Separation of S10-conditioned medium revealed no cryptic activity. S17-conditioned medium was further characterized by anion exchange chromatography and the majority of the pre-B cell generating activity shown to be associated with the void volume that eluted from a MonoQ column. These fractions were rechromatographed on Superose and the activity again found to be associated with two fractions corresponding to apparent m.w. of 60,000 and 10,000. The S17 pre-B cell differentiation activity appears to result from the presence of a novel molecule because other well characterized mediators had no activity in this short-term liquid culture system. No pre-B cell-generating activity was observed when IL-1 or conditioned medium containing IL-2, IL-3, or IL-4 (B cell stimulatory factor 1) were added to cultures.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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