A proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) is a new tumor necrosis factor family member implicated in tumor cell proliferation. We investigated the role of APRIL in megakaryocytopoiesis, a developmental hematopoietic process responsible for progenitor cell differentiation to megakaryoblasts and megakaryocytes, leading to platelet formation. APRIL is not expressed in CD34+ progenitor cells from healthy donors, but it is massively up-regulated during the proliferative phase of megakaryocytic cell differentiation. Exogenous APRIL expression in primary cells increases megakaryocytic cell growth, suggesting that APRIL acts as a proliferative factor in megakaryocytopoiesis. More importantly, neutralization of endogenous APRIL was able to dramatically reduce megakaryocyte expansion and platelet production. Thus, our data provide evidence that APRIL acts as a growth factor for terminal megakaryocytopoiesis and may promote physiologic platelet production.
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