Kamminga LM, van Os R, Ausema A, Noach EJ, Weersing E, Dontje B, Vellenga E, de Haan G
Stem Cells 2005;23(1):82-92
Adult somatic stem cells possess extensive self-renewal capacity, as their primary role is to replenish aged and functionally impaired tissues. We have previously shown that the stem cell pool in short-lived DBA/2 (D2) mice is reduced during aging, in contrast to long-lived C57BL/6 (B6) mice. This suggests the existence of a genetically determined mitotic clock operating in stem cells, which possibly limits organismal aging. In the study reported here, unfractionated bone marrow (BM) cells or highly purified Lin(-)Sca-1(+)c-kit(+) (LSK) cells were serially transplanted in lethally irradiated D2 and B6 mice. In both strains, serial transplantation resulted in a substantial loss of stem cell activity. However, as we estimate that in B6 mice, the maximum number of population doublings of primitive cells is approximately 30, in D2 mice this is only approximately 20, resulting in a 1,000-fold difference in expansion potential, irrespective of whether whole bone marrow or purified hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) were transplanted. Interestingly, recipients reconstituted with serially transplanted BM cells were able to accept a freshly isolated graft without any further conditioning. Finally, we show that whereas transplantation of BM cells into healthy, nonconditioned, young B6 recipients does not lead to engraftment, young BM cells do engraft and provide multilineage reconstitution in nonirradiated aged mice. Our data clearly establish the relevance of an intrinsic, genetically controlled program associated with impaired stem cell functioning during aging.