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Anat Embryol (Berl). 2004 Mar;207(6):503-12. Epub 2004 Feb 10.

Expression patterns of erythropoietin and its receptor in the developing midbrain.

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Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Georg-August University, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.


The expression patterns of erythropoietin (EPO) and its receptor (EPOR) were investigated in the midbrain and in adjacent parts of the synencephalon and hindbrain of embryonic C57Bl mice. On embryonic (E) day 8 (E8), virtually all neuroepithelial cells expressed EPOR. After neural tube closure, subsets of these cells downregulated EPOR. In contrast, radial glial cells were EPOR-immunolabeled from E11 onwards. Simultaneously, subpopulations of early developing neurons upregulated EPO and expressed HIF-1, known to transcriptionally activate EPO. Three-dimensional reconstructions revealed subpopulations of EPO-expressing neurons: (1) in the trigeminal mesencephalic nucleus (TMN), (2) at the rostral transition of the midbrain and synencephalon, (3) in the basal plate of the midbrain, (4) in the trigeminal motor nucleus, and (5) in the trigeminal principal sensory nucleus. In the rostral midbrain and synencephalon, EPO-immunoreactive neurons were attached to EPOR-expressing radial glial cells. The identity of radial glial cells was proven by their immunoreactivity for antibodies against astrocyte-specific glutamate transporter, brain lipid-binding protein, and nestin. From E12.5 onwards EPOR was downregulated in radial glial cells. Viable neurons of the TMN continued to express EPO and upregulated EPOR. Our findings provide new evidence that components of the EPO system are present in distinct locations of the embryonic brain and, by interactions between neurons and radial glial cells as well as among clustered TMN neurons, may contribute to its morphogenesis. Whether the observed expression patterns of EPO and EPOR may reflect EPO-mediated trophic and/or antiapoptotic effects on neurons is discussed.

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