Spatial and temporal mapping of c-kit and its ligand, stem cell factor expression during human embryonic haemopoiesis

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Abstract

Summary.

Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) mediate cellular responses to the extracellular signals involved in the regulation of cell differentiation and proliferation. Ligand binding initiates a cascade of events, such as receptor dimerization and tyrosine phosphorylation. The c-kit gene encodes an RTK for stem cell factor (SCF), (c-kit ligand, KL), both of which play a critical role in the differentiation and growth of haemopoietic stem cells (HSCs). We investigated the expression of the c-kit and SCF genes and the presence of the corresponding proteins in haemopoietic tissues during human embryogenesis. We have examined c-kit and SCF transcripts levels in human embryonic yolk sac, the AGM region, and liver at different stages of gestation (days 25 to 63), using RT-PCR amplification combined with PhosphorImager quantitative analysis and RNase Protection Assay (RPA). Weak levels of SCF gene expression were observed in the AGM region (days 25 to 34) and high levels were found in the early-stage liver (day 34). The expression of c-kit transcript was observed in all studied tissues, but at various levels. The restricted presence of SCF protein following mRNA expression was demonstrated in embryonic liver CD38+ haemopoietic cells by immunocytochemistry. These observations suggest that the biological function of the c-kit receptor plays an important role in the early stages of human haemopoiesis, and that c-kit/SCF signalling is particularly involved in early human definitive haemopoiesis.

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