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EMBO J. 2001 Dec 3;20(23):6909-18.

Heme-regulated eIF2alpha kinase (HRI) is required for translational regulation and survival of erythroid precursors in iron deficiency.

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Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Although the physiological role of tissue-specific translational control of gene expression in mammals has long been suspected on the basis of biochemical studies, direct evidence has been lacking. Here, we report on the targeted disruption of the gene encoding the heme-regulated eIF2alpha kinase (HRI) in mice. We establish that HRI, which is expressed predominantly in erythroid cells, regulates the synthesis of both alpha- and beta-globins in red blood cell (RBC) precursors by inhibiting the general translation initiation factor eIF2. This inhibition occurs when the intracellular concentration of heme declines, thereby preventing the synthesis of globin peptides in excess of heme. In iron-deficient HRI(-/-) mice, globins devoid of heme aggregated within the RBC and its precursors, resulting in a hyperchromic, normocytic anemia with decreased RBC counts, compensatory erythroid hyperplasia and accelerated apoptosis in bone marrow and spleen. Thus, HRI is a physiological regulator of gene expression and cell survival in the erythroid lineage.

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