Bone marrow cells adopt the phenotype of other cells by spontaneous cell fusion


Recent studies have demonstrated that transplanted bone marrow cells can turn into unexpected lineages including myocytes, hepatocytes, neurons and many others1. A potential problem, however, is that reports discussing such ‘transdifferentiation’ in vivo tend to conclude donor origin of transdifferentiated cells on the basis of the existence of donor-specific genes such as Y-chromosome markers1. Here we demonstrate that mouse bone marrow cells can fuse spontaneously with embryonic stem cells in culture in vitro that contains interleukin-3. Moreover, spontaneously fused bone marrow cells can subsequently adopt the phenotype of the recipient cells, which, without detailed genetic analysis, might be interpreted as ‘dedifferentiation’ or transdifferentiation.

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Figure 1: GFP+ embryonic stem-like cells derived from mixed culture of GFP+ bone marrow cells and GFP embryonic stem cells.
Figure 2: Genetic analysis of BMESL cells.


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The authors are indebted to A. Nagy for providing embryonic stem cell lines; Y. Yoneda for discussion; J. Crawford, D. Steindler, S. May and S. Sugrue for critical reading of the manuscript; and G. Brown, M. Jorgenson, A. Meacham, N. Devine, and Diagnostic Cytogenetics for technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (to N.T. and E.W.S.).

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Correspondence to Naohiro Terada.

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Terada, N., Hamazaki, T., Oka, M. et al. Bone marrow cells adopt the phenotype of other cells by spontaneous cell fusion. Nature 416, 542–545 (2002).

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