Castration of normal male mice induces expansion of the bone marrow B cell population, an effect that can be reversed by androgen replacement. We employed in vitro cultures and two in vivo models to investigate whether androgens exert these effects directly on marrow lymphoid precursors or whether actions on marrow stromal elements are required. Immature B cells from normal mouse bone marrow were not responsive to the suppressive effect of androgens unless they were cocultured with marrow stromal cells or with supernatants from androgen-treated stromal cells, suggesting that the androgen effects are exerted through marrow stromal elements by production of a diffusible mediator. Further experiments revealed that bone marrow stromal cells produced TGF-β in response to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and neutralization of TGF-β in the DHT-treated stromal cells reversed the suppressive effects. The stromal cell requirement for androgen-mediated effects was confirmed in vivo by experiments using chimeric animals created by bone marrow transplantation in which androgen receptor expression was restricted to either the stromal or lymphoid cells of the bone marrow. Androgens only affected B cell development in chimeric mice with androgen-sensitive stromal cells. These experiments suggest that effects of androgens on developing B cells are mediated through androgen receptors in bone marrow stromal cells. TGFβ is a candidate mediator for these hormonal effects.
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