Forced expression of the Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) gene inhibits proliferation of human hematopoietic CD34(+) progenitor cells

Helena Svedberg, Johan Richter, Urban Gullberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Wilms tumor gene (WT1) encodes a zinc-finger containing transcription factor present in primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells. WT1 is also highly expressed in most cases of acute myeloid leukemia. Moreover, WT1 can interfere with induced differentiation of leukemic cell lines. These data suggest a function of WT1 in the maintenance of a primitive phenotype and a role in leukemogenesis by interfering with differentiation, prompting us to investigate its function in human hematopoietic progenitor cells. By retroviral transfer, human CD34(+) cord blood progenitor cells were transduced with a vector encoding either of two splicing variants of WT1, with or without the KTS insert in the zinc-finger domain, linked to expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) via an internal ribosomal entry site. When compared to cells transduced with vector containing GFP only, WT1 expressing cells showed strongly reduced colony formation in methylcellulose and inhibited proliferation in suspension culture, with no apparent reduction in viability. Cell cycle phase distribution was not affected by WT1 expression. No signs of impaired differentiation, as judged by the surface markers CD11b, CD14 and glycophorin were detected. In contrast to the results with human CD34(+) progenitor cells, the proliferation of murine bone marrow cells was not significantly affected by WT1, consistent with previous data. We conclude that forced expression of WT1 in highly enriched human hematopoietic progenitor cells leads to strong anti-proliferative effects but is compatible with induced maturation of these cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1914-1922
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • WT1
  • Wilms
  • leukemia
  • differentiation
  • hematopoiesis
  • CD34


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