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Blood. 1998 Oct 15;92(8):2940-50.

Molecular identification and functional characterization of a novel protein that mediates the attachment of erythroblasts to macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Research, St Elizabeth's Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


We have previously identified a novel protein that mediates the attachment of erythroblasts to macrophages in vitro. This attachment promotes terminal maturation and enucleation of erythroblasts (Hanspal and Hanspal, Blood 84:3494, 1994). This protein is referred to here as Emp for erythroblast macrophage protein. Two immunologically related isoforms of Emp with apparent molecular weights of 33 kD and 36 kD were detected in macrophage membranes. The complete amino acid sequence of the larger isoform of Emp was deduced from the nucleotide sequence of a full-length 2.0-kb cDNA that was isolated from a human macrophage cDNA library using affinity-purified anti-Emp antibodies. Of the 2,005 bp, 1,185 bp encode for 395 amino acids representing 43 kD (the sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis [SDS-PAGE] molecular mass is 36 kD). Northern blot analysis of human macrophage poly(A) RNA detected a message for Emp of 2.1 kb. The deduced amino acid sequence contains a putative transmembrane domain near the N-terminus. To investigate the structure/function relationships of Emp, recombinant fusion proteins of full-length and truncated Emp were produced in bacteria, COS-7, and HeLa cells. Cell binding assays showed that the N-terminus is exposed on the cell surface. The recombinant Emp functions as a cell attachment molecule when expressed in heterologous cells. Furthermore, we showed that the demise of erythroblasts in the absence of Emp-mediated erythroblast-macrophage association is accompanied by apoptosis. We postulate that Emp-mediated contact between erythroblasts and macrophages promotes terminal maturation of erythroid cells by suppressing apoptosis.

Copyright 1998 by The American Society of Hematology.

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