Erythropoietic repopulating abilities of fetal liver cells and young and old adult marrow cells were compared as follows: equal numbers of cells from a donor of each age were mixed with a constant portion of cells pooled from genetically distinguishable competitors.
These mixtures were transplanted into stem cell-depleted recipients, and the proportions of recipient hemoglobin that were donor type measured the relative effectiveness of early erythropoietic precursor cells from the various donors.
At intervals of 3-6 months, recipients were sublethally irradiated, requiring a new round of competitive repopulation.
When B6 mice were used as donors, with WBB6F1 competitors and recipients, the highest levels of stem cell activity were found using old donors.
This was true even with unirradiated, immune-competent W/Wv recipients.
When donors and recipients were WBB6F1 hybrids, with B6 competitors, fetal cells initially gave higher levels of repopulating ability, and they were similar to the adult and old marrow cells after 400 days and after recovery from two sublethal irradiations.
These effects were mostly insignificant and probably reflect small differences in initial stem cell concentrations that are brought out by the sensitivity of the competitive repopulation assay.
Clearly, ultimate erythropoietic stem cell proliferative capacities did not decline as a result of the proliferation required between 15 d of fetal life and old age.
Repopulating abilities of 12-d fetal liver cells were not detectable.
It was also shown that the proportions of newly synthesized hemoglobins made by the two types of stem cells in tetraparental mice remained nearly constant when tested at 3-d intervals over 30 days.
Minimum numbers of stem cells producing erythrocytes over a single 3-d period were calculated as 62 and 128, but these are too low, since variances were similar in the tetraparental mice and in the F1 hybrid control.
This contradicts the hypothesis that erythropoietic stem cells reserve limited proliferative capacities by proliferating one or a few at a time.
It is suggested that erythropoietic stem cells have essentially unlimited proliferative capacities and are found in approximately equal concentrations in the primary erythropoietic organs after 15 or 16 days of fetal life.