Our objective was to determine the role that bone marrow-derived stromal cells have on human hematopoiesis in HIV infection. In particular, we dissected the heterogeneous bone marrow microenvironment to study the effect HIV expression might have on the cell population capable of producing the cytokines which will support human CD34+ cell differentiation. A stromal cell line, Lof(l 1-10), was established from human bone marrow by transfecting a plasmid containing the SV40 large T-antigen and isolating foci exhibiting a transformed phenotype. The Lof(l 1-10) cell line was characterized to determine its susceptibility to HIV infection, to identify its cytokine production profile, and to test the ability of conditioned media from this line to support CD34+ cell differentiation in the presence and absence of HIV expression. Nine cytokines were detected by RT-PCR and ELISA analysis. Conditioned media obtained from the Lof(l 1-10) cell line was able to support CD34+ cell differentiation. However, because the Lof( 11-10) cells are not infectible by HIV, molecular clones of HIV were introduced into these cells by transfection. There was no qualitative difference in the levels of cytokine production between HIV-expressing and control Lof(ll-10) cells. Furthermore, conditioned media derived from HIV-expressing and control Lof(l 1-10) cells added to bone marrow-derived CD34+ progenitor cells yielded similar colony formation in methylcellulose assays. Our data suggest that HIV infection of the cytokine-producing cells within the bone marrow microenvironment, as represented by the Lof(l 1-10) cell line, results in both normal cytokine production and hematopoiesis in spite of HIV expression. This report adds to the evidence against stromal cells being a significant target of HIV and establishes a system for comparison with more relevant models.

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