Two human stromal cell lines were established previously from bone marrow-derived primary long-term cultures by immortalization using the SV40 large T antigen and cellular cloning. After irradiation, the fibroblast-like cell lines L87/4 and L88/5 support hematopoietic differentiation of allogeneic cord blood cells in vitro. The stromal cells do not express CD34 and CD50, but some adhesion molecules and integrins, such as CD44, CD54 and CD58. Their expression profiles on RNA and protein levels are suggestive of their osteogenic potency. The quality and quantity of osteocalcin and osteopontin protein expression depended on the culture conditions. Expression of the osteogenic markers increased over time in culture, especially in cells growing in clusters. The stromal cells also expressed collagens I and V, but did not show any expression of collagens II and III. The potentially osteoblastic stromal cells were transplanted into NOD/ SCID recipient mice by intravenous injection and were found in various mesenchymal organs up to 10 weeks after transplantation. Osteocalcin-positive human stromal cells could be detected in the bone marrow, thymus, liver, brain and gut of the recipient animals. In summary, there is evidence that human bone-marrow-derived stromal cells have to be considered mesenchymal progenitors, persistently expressing osteogenic markers in vitro and in vivo.

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