Increasing the expression of c-FMS (colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor) by introduction of a transgene reduced the concentration of retinoic acid or 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 needed to cause myeloid or monocytic cell differentiation and hypophosphorylation of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (RB) typically associated with cell cycle G0 arrest and differentiation of HL-60 human myelo-monoblastic precursor cells. The data are consistent with a model in which signals originating with retinoic acid and c-FMS integrate to cause differentiation, RB hypophosphorylation, and G0 arrest. Furthermore, these two signals can compensate for each other. Three HL-60 sublines described previously (A. Yen et al., Exp. Cell Res., 229: 111–125, 1996) expressing low (wild-type HL-60), intermediate, and high cell surface c-FMS were treated with various concentrations of retinoic acid. The lowest concentration tested, 10-8m, induced significant differentiation of only the high c-FMS-expressing cells, with no accompanying hypophosphorylated RB or G0 arrest. The low and intermediate c-FMS expressing cells showed no induced differentiation, hypophosphorylation of RB, or G0 arrest. A 10-fold higher retinoic acid concentration, 10-7m, induced significant differentiation of both intermediate and high c-FMS-expressing cells. It induced RB hypophosphorylation only in high c-FMS-expressing cells but with no accompanying G0 arrest in any of the cells. The highest retinoic acid concentration, 10-6m, elicited differentiation, hypophosphorylation of RB, and G0 arrest in low, intermediate, and high c-FMS-expressing cells. As the concentration of retinoic acid increased, cell differentiation, hypophosphorylation of RB, and G0 arrest were progressively elicited within this ensemble of cells with different c-FMS expression levels. Thus, for example, at the lowest concentration of retinoic acid, expression of high enough c-FMS still allowed differentiation. At higher concentrations, progressively less c-FMS was needed for differentiation. The apparent threshold for the sum of the retinoic acid plus c-FMS originated signals to elicit differentiation, hypophosphorylation of RB, and G0 arrest increased, in that order. Thus retinoic acid-induced cell differentiation, RB hypophosphorylation, and G0 arrest have different signal threshold requirements. 1,25-Dihydroxy vitamin D3, also a ligand for a member of the steroid thyroid hormone receptor superfamily, caused monocytic differentiation with a similar c-FMS dependency, indicating that these effects characterize both myeloid and monocytic differentiation.

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This work was supported in part by grants from NIH (United States Public Health Service), United States Department of Agriculture, and the Children's Leukemia Fund.

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