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Blood. 2000 Nov 1;96(9):3249-55.

Apoptosis in megaloblastic anemia occurs during DNA synthesis by a p53-independent, nucleoside-reversible mechanism.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine, Pathology, and Microbiology and Immunology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37232-6305, USA.


Deficiency of folate or vitamin B(12) (cobalamin) causes megaloblastic anemia, a disease characterized by pancytopenia due to the excessive apoptosis of hematopoietic progenitor cells. Clinical and experimental studies of megaloblastic anemia have demonstrated an impairment of DNA synthesis and repair in hematopoietic cells that is manifested by an increased percentage of cells in the DNA synthesis phase (S phase) of the cell cycle, compared with normal hematopoietic cells. Both folate and cobalamin are required for normal de novo synthesis of thymidylate and purines. However, previous studies of impaired DNA synthesis and repair in megaloblastic anemia have concerned mainly the decreased intracellular levels of thymidylate and its effects on nucleotide pools and misincorporation of uracil into DNA. An in vitro model of folate-deficient erythropoiesis was used to study the relationship between the S-phase accumulation and apoptosis in megaloblastic anemia. The results indicate that folate-deficient erythroblasts accumulate in and undergo apoptosis in the S phase when compared with control erythroblasts. Both the S-phase accumulation and the apoptosis were induced by folate deficiency in erythroblasts from p53 null mice. The complete reversal of the S-phase accumulation and apoptosis in folate-deficient erythroblasts required the exogenous provision of specific purines or purine nucleosides as well as thymidine. These results indicate that decreased de novo synthesis of purines plays as important a role as decreased de novo synthesis of thymidylate in the pathogenesis of megaloblastic anemia.

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