Multilineage precursor cells from 14-day B6 (C57B1/6J) mouse fetal liver and adult bone marrow that repopulate both the lymphoid and myeloid systems were compared by competitive repopulation.
Cells were assayed in normally functioning populations, and enrichment, tissue culture, and induced marking were avoided since these manipulations might affect cell function.
Fetal or adult donor cells were mixed with marked adult competitor cells and transplanted into irradiated recipients whose blood was tested at short (25-33-day) or long (105-245-day) time periods after transplantation.
Proportions of lymphocytes, granulocytes, and platelets descended from donor precursors were measured by GPI (glucosephosphate isomerase) isozyme genetic markers in congenic mice, and represent the repopulating abilities of these precursors relative to the standard competitor.
For short-term repopulation 25-33 days after transplantation, fetal and adult donor cells were similar; in three studies, fetal liver contributed 0.8, 1.1, and 1.4 times as much as adult marrow per 10(5) cells transplanted.
However, when long-term (105-245-day) repopulation was tested in the same recipients, fetal liver contributed 3.5, 5.0, and 7.1 times as much as adult marrow.
Ratios of long-term/short-term repopulating abilities in fetal liver relative to standard adult marrow competitors were 2.5, 8.9, and 4.7, while in marrow controls, these ratios remained approximately one (1.14 and 0.80).
Thus, 14-day fetal liver contains several times more long-term repopulating cells relative to short-term repopulating cells than does adult marrow.
Ratios of long-term/short-term fetal cells were unchanged by precursor enrichment.
The AA4.1+, Ly-6A/E+, lineage low fraction had a ratio of 4.4, although it repopulated 276 times better than unenriched fetal cells whose ratio was 4.7.
There are two hypotheses that explain these data most simply: 1) there may be only a single multilineage precursor, but after transplantation cells seed in different microenvironments that support either long-term or short-term function; 2) conversely, the difference may be at the stem cell level rather than the microenvironmental level, so that there are tow types of stem cells with multilineage differentiating ability, but only one functions over the long-term.
If functional life spans are defined by seeding sites, as in hypothesis 1, fetal cells seed much higher proportions of long-term sites than adult cells.
If different types of stem cells function short-term and long-term, as in hypothesis 2, they are not distinguished by markers allowing a 276-fold enrichment to 1367 times the repopulating ability of fresh marrow.