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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A developmental transition in definitive erythropoiesis: erythropoietin expression is sequentially regulated by retinoic acid receptors and HNF4.

The cytokine erythropoietin ( Epo) promotes erythropoietic progenitor cell proliferation and is required for erythropoietic differentiation. We have found that the Epo gene is a direct transcriptional target gene of retinoic acid signaling during early erythropoiesis (prior to embryonic day E12.5) in the fetal liver. Mouse embryos lacking the retinoic acid receptor gene RXR alpha have a morphological and histological phenotype that is comparable with embryos in which the Epo gene itself has been mutated, and flow cytometric analysis indicates that RXR alpha-deficient embryos are deficient in erythroid differentiation. Epo mRNA levels are reduced substantially in the fetal livers of RXR alpha(-/-) embryos at E10.25 and E11.25, and genetic analysis shows that the RXR alpha and Epo genes are coupled in the same pathway. We furthermore show that the Epo gene is retinoic acid inducible in embryos, and that the Epo gene enhancer contains a DR2 sequence that represents a retinoic acid receptor-binding site and a retinoic acid receptor transcriptional response element. However, unlike Epo-deficient embryos that die from anemia, the erythropoietic deficiency in RXR alpha(-/-) embryos is transient; Epo mRNA is expressed at normal levels by E12.5, and erythropoiesis and liver morphology are normal by E14. 5. We show that HNF4, like RXR alpha a member of the nuclear receptor family, is abundantly expressed in fetal liver hepatocytes, and is competitive with retinoic acid receptors for occupancy of the Epo gene enhancer DR2 element. We propose that Epo expression is regulated during the E9.5--E11.5 phase of fetal liver erythropoiesis by RXR alpha and retinoic acid, and that expression then becomes dominated by HNF4 activity from E11.5 onward. This transition may be responsible for switching regulation of Epo expression from retinoic acid control to hypoxic control, as is found throughout the remainder of life.[1]


  1. A developmental transition in definitive erythropoiesis: erythropoietin expression is sequentially regulated by retinoic acid receptors and HNF4. Makita, T., Hernandez-Hoyos, G., Chen, T.H., Wu, H., Rothenberg, E.V., Sucov, H.M. Genes Dev. (2001) [Pubmed]
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