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Vol. 3, No. 1-2, 2006
Issue release date: May 2006
Neurodegenerative Dis 2006;3:68–75

Erythropoietin and Normal Brain Development: Receptor Expression Determines Multi-Tissue Response

Chen Z.-Y. · Warin R. · Noguchi C.T.
Molecular Cell Biology Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., USA

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Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hypoxia-inducible hormone required for erythroid differentiation. Expression of the EPO receptor is not restricted to hematopoietic cells and exhibits a multi-tissue distribution that includes neural cells, vascular endothelium and muscle progenitor cells. The ability for EPO to stimulate progenitor cell proliferation and prevent apoptosis is critical for maintenance of the erythroid lineage, but is also observed in neural and muscle progenitor cells. Mice lacking the EPO receptor die in utero due to severe anemia. However, even prior to lack of erythroid cell production in the embryo proper, these mice exhibit increased apoptosis in the brain as early as E10.5 and a reduction in the number of neural progenitor cells. Corresponding cultures of primary neural cells exhibit decreased neuron generation and increased sensitivity to reduced oxygen tension, and neurons do not survive after 24 h at low oxygen tension. In contrast, hypoxia induces EPO and EPO receptor in wild-type neuronal cells, and EPO enhances neuron survival at low oxygen tension. In vivo EPO is neuroprotective in adult animal models for brain ischemia. Induction of EPO and its receptor by hypoxia likely contributes to its neuroprotective activity and selective cell survival in the brain during hypoxic stress.

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