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The clinical application of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) has so far been limited due to the severe adverse effects associated with its systemic use. Recently, two distinct TNF receptors with molecular weights of 55 kDa (TNFR55) and 75 kDa (TNFR75) have been cloned and characterized. The subsequent development of TNF-alpha mutants with selective activity on either TNFR55 or TNFR75 suggest that such mutants might maintain the therapeutic (anti-tumor) potential of wild type TNF-alpha, but exhibit reduced toxicity (proinflammatory effects). In the present article we discuss previous studies on the effects of TNF-alpha in in vitro and in vivo hematopoiesis. In addition, we summarize more recent data from our laboratory as well as others, elucidating the role of TNF-alpha as a direct bifunctional regulator of in vitro hematopoiesis. Specifically, TNF-alpha is a potent inhibitor of the clonal growth of primitive and committed murine and human bone marrow progenitors in combination with multiple cytokines, including granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), CSF-1, erythropoietin (Epo), stem cell factor (SCF), and flt3 ligand (FL). In contrast, TNF-alpha at low concentrations can synergistically and directly enhance the clonal growth of primitive and more mature human CD34+ bone marrow progenitors when combined with GM-CSF or interleukin (IL)-3. Thus, a critical determinant of whether TNF-alpha elicits a stimulatory or inhibitory effect on the in vitro growth of hematopoietic progenitors appears to be the specific growth factors with which it interacts, rather than the maturity of the targeted progenitor. Furthermore, we describe the involvement of the two TNF receptors in signaling in vitro hematopoietic effects of TNF-alpha. Whereas TNFR55 is involved in most observed responses to TNF-alpha, signaling of TNFR75 appears to be restricted to inhibitory effects on primitive progenitors. Finally, we discuss the complexity of direct and indirect actions of TNF-alpha in in vivo hematopoiesis, and the potential clinical applications of TNF-alpha or TNF mutants.


Journal article


Stem Cells

Publication Date



12 Suppl 1


111 - 126


Animals, Antigens, CD, Cloning, Molecular, Hematopoiesis, Hematopoietic Cell Growth Factors, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Humans, In Vitro Techniques, Membrane Proteins, Mice, Mutation, Receptors, Cytokine, Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I, Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II, Signal Transduction, Stem Cell Factor, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha