Although antisera to specific placental folate receptors inhibit the uptake of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate into cultured malignant human cells, little is known of the functional significance of folate receptors in normal human cells. Human bone marrow cells were therefore assayed for erythropoietic burst-forming units in the presence of antihuman placental folate receptor serum and preimmune serum to determine the role of such a receptor in erythroid differentiation. When marrow cells were assayed in the presence of anti-receptor antiserum, there was (i) a threefold increase in erythropoietic burst formation and a twofold increase in the number of cells per erythroid burst; (ii) morphological evidence for nuclear/cytoplasmic dissociation of orthochromatic normoblasts composing erythroid bursts (megaloblastic erythropoiesis); (iii) intracellular folate deficiency with a 70% reduction of intracellular folate in antiserum treated cells as compared with control cells; and (iv) complete reversal of antiserum-induced changes on preincubation of antiserum with purified human placental folate receptor. These data support the conclusion that folate receptors on marrow cells provide an important function in the cellular uptake of folates during in vitro erythropoiesis. This process of folate uptake also appears to play a pivotal role in the differentiation and proliferation of erythroid progenitor cells.
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