Hematopoietic processes, especially megakaryocytopoiesis and thrombopoiesis, are highly sensitive to extracellular oxidative stresses such as ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic agents. This study examined the terminal maturation of megakaryocytes and platelet production in hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) exposed to ionizing radiation. Highly purified CD34+ cells derived from human placental/umbilical cord blood were exposed to X rays (2 Gy, 150 kVp, 20 mA; 0.5-mm aluminum and 0.3-mm copper filters) at a dose rate of approximately 1 Gy/min and then cultured in a serum-free medium supplemented with thrombopoietin and interleukin-3. The number of cells generated from X-irradiated CD34+ cells decreased with the time in culture. However, the fraction of CD34+Tie-2+ and CD41+Tie-2+ cells among the total cells generated from X-irradiated cells increased significantly in comparison to nonirradiated controls on day 7. In addition, the CD42a+ particles, which appeared to be platelets, generated from the X-irradiated HSPCs appeared to be normal. Quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis of the expression of various genes in cells harvested from the cultures showed that the early hematopoiesis-related genes FLI1, HOXB4 and Tie-2, the cytokine receptor genes KIT and IL3RA, and the oxidative stress-related genes HO1 and NQO1 were upregulated on day 7. These results suggest that normal terminal maturation of megakaryocytes and platelet production occur in residual HSPCs after exposure to ionizing radiation despite the adverse effect of radiation on proliferation and differentiation of HSPCs. Ionizing radiation may have the potential to promote both megakaryocytopoiesis and thrombopoiesis.

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