Constituents of the bone marrow microenvironment have the capacity to influence both normal and malignant hematopoietic cell behavior. For example, HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells in vitro display a more mature phenotype when grown on a bone marrow stroma-derived matrix. To elucidate which component(s) of the stromal matrix is capable of modulating HL-60 cell phenotype, matrices were treated with a variety of chemicals and enzymes prior to being used in the differentiation assay. Treatment of matrices with collagenase, pronase, chondroitinase, or chloroform:methanol:ether could not abolish the differentiation-promoting activity of bone marrow stroma. In contrast, the activity was destroyed by alkali treatment (0.5 M NaOH for 18 h) or heparinase/heparitinase enzymes. Heparin added to cultures increased maturation of HL-60 cells as determined by esterase production, Fc rosette formation, and morphological appearance. Other stromal components such as laminin, fibronectin, collagen I, collagen IV, or chondroitin sulfate did not alter the HL-60 leukemia cell phenotype. Stroma-derived matrix material which labeled with [35S]sulfate and eluted on a DEAE ion-exchange column as a high ionic fraction in 1.5 M LiCl and 7.5% sodium dodecyl sulfate contained the active fraction. A heparan sulfate proteoglycan component isolated by polyacrylamide-agarose gel electrophoresis induced a more mature HL-60 phenotype, and digestion with heparinase/heparitinase in the presence of protease inhibitors abrogated the effects on HL-60 phenotype. We conclude that a heparan sulfate-associated fraction of the bone marrow matrix plays a key role in the regulation of leukemic cell maturation.
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