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Using Quantitative Real-time PCR to Determine Donor Cell Engraftment in a Competitive Murine Bone Marrow Transplantation Model

Published: March 7th, 2013



1Division of Hematology-oncology, Department of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina

Determining donor cell engraftment presents a challenge in mouse bone marrow transplant models that lack well-defined phenotypical markers. We described a methodology to quantify male donor cell engraftment in female transplant recipient mice. This method can be used in all mouse strains for the study of HSC functions.

Murine bone marrow transplantation models provide an important tool in measuring hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) functions and determining genes/molecules that regulate HSCs. In these transplant model systems, the function of HSCs is determined by the ability of these cells to engraft and reconstitute lethally irradiated recipient mice. Commonly, the donor cell contribution/engraftment is measured by antibodies to donor- specific cell surface proteins using flow cytometry. However, this method heavily depends on the specificity and the ability of the cell surface marker to differentiate donor-derived cells from recipient-originated cells, which may not be available for all mouse strains. Considering the various backgrounds of genetically modified mouse strains in the market, this cell surface/ flow cytometry-based method has significant limitations especially in mouse strains that lack well-defined surface markers to separate donor cells from congenic recipient cells. Here, we reported a PCR-based technique to determine donor cell engraftment/contribution in transplant recipient mice. We transplanted male donor bone marrow HSCs to lethally irradiated congenic female mice. Peripheral blood samples were collected at different time points post transplantation. Bone marrow samples were obtained at the end of the experiments. Genomic DNA was isolated and the Y chromosome specific gene, Zfy1, was amplified using quantitative Real time PCR. The engraftment of male donor-derived cells in the female recipient mice was calculated against standard curve with known percentage of male vs. female DNAs. Bcl2 was used as a reference gene to normalize the total DNA amount. Our data suggested that this approach reliably determines donor cell engraftment and provides a useful, yet simple method in measuring hematopoietic cell reconstitution in murine bone marrow transplantation models. Our method can be routinely performed in most laboratories because no costly equipment such as flow cytometry is required.

Murine bone marrow (BM) transplantation model was first developed in 1960s1. This model has been extensively used for the study of donor hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) biology in a host recipient mouse. Murine bone marrow transplant model has provided us with valuable knowledge on HSC functions and their regulation and is indispensable in HSC research. Allogeneic bone marrow transplant model like C57Bl/6JH2b-Balb/CH2d or congenic transplant model like C56Bl/6JCD45.2-B6.SJLCD45.1 are used in many laboratories to study the gene function on HSC activity2, effect of drug treatment on HSC function....

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1. Bone Marrow Cell Isolation

  1. Euthanize male donor FVB/NJ mice and female FVB/NJ mice using CO2 method followed by cervical dislocation. The female FVB/NJ bone marrow cells will be used as competitive cells.
  2. Use small scissors and forceps, dissect out femurs and tibiaes from mice and place them in a 60 mm tissue culture dish containing 6 ml ice-cold RPMI1640 with 5% heat inactivated FBS. Use kimwipe tissue to remove muscle and other tissues. Cut off both ends of each bone shaft in the dis.......

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Figure 1 and 2 showed examples of standard curves plotted with mean values of 2-δCt against percentages of male DNA. Figure 1A showed specific melting temperature for Bcl2 and Zfy1 amplicons localized at 78.5 °C and 88.5 °C, respectively. Bcl2 is used as a reference gene to normalize the total amount of loaded DNA in each PCR reaction. Bcl2 amplification curves (Log view) for each standard sample merge with each other independent of male DNA concentration, indica.......

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The objective of our current study is to provide the audiences a PCR based technique to quantify donor cell engraftment in a competitive murine bone marrow transplantation model. Several studies have been reported using RT-PCR to detect donor cells in transplantation models 9-10. Dr. Schwarzenberger's group first developed a murine bone marrow transplantation model using real-time PCR to amplify y-chromosome-specific 8. This method was used to study Gli-1 function in HSC activity 11. We t.......

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We thank Dr. Charles Greenberg for the use of his Real time PCR machine. This work is supported by MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Startup Fund, Hollings Cancer Center ACS IRG, ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation Career Development Award, NIH 1K08HL 103780-01A1, and NIH 3P30CA138313-01S3. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding agents.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Name of the reagent Company Catalogue number Comments (optional)
RPMI 1640 Hyclone SH30255.01
FBS Invitrogen 16140-017 Heat inactivated
Ammonium chloride MP Biomedicaals 194806
Potassium Bicarbonate Fisher P184-500
QIAamp DNA Blood minikit Qiagen 51106
Cell strainer BD bioscience
iQ SYBR Green supermix Biorad 170-8882
iQ5 real time PCR machine Biorad
Spectra photometer Nanodrop ND-1000 ND-1000

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