The mechanism of action of erythropoietin

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The proliferation and differentiation of committed erythroid progenitor cells is regulated by the glycoprotein hormone erythropoietin. Erythropoietin increases the number of developing erythroid precursors and accelerates the release of reticulocytes from the marrow without markedly altering the cell cycle length or number of mitotic divisions involved in the differentiation process. Although the hormone has been purified, molecularly cloned and sequenced, its secondary and tertiary structure and active site have not been defined. Erythropoietin has both mitogenic and differentiation functions, and whether an erythroid progenitor cell responds to the hormone by proliferating or differentiating appears to depend on its level of maturation. Erythroid progenitor cells are responsive to a variety of growth and developmental agents but only erythropoietin appears obligatory in vivo for terminal differentiation. Erythropoietin interacts with its target cells through specific high‐affinity receptors and Ca2+ may be involved in the receptor‐ligand interaction. Ca2+ may also be involved in the induction of differentiation by erythropoietin. An increase in RNA synthesis due to activation of transcription is one of the earliest recognized effects of the hormone and appears not to require protein or DNA synthesis but the initial sequence of biochemical events triggered by erythropoietin is still undefined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-166
Number of pages28
JournalThe International Journal of Cell Cloning
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986


  • Erythroid progenitor cells
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Erythropoietin
  • Hematopoietic growth factors
  • Murine erythroleukemia cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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