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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 May 6;105(18):6662-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802032105. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

The fetal liver is a niche for maturation of primitive erythroid cells.

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Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Primitive erythroid cells (EryP) are the earliest differentiated cell type of the mammalian embryo. They appear in the yolk sac by embryonic day 7.5, begin to enter the embryonic circulation 2 days later and continue to mature in a stepwise and synchronous fashion. Like their adult counterparts, EryP enucleate. However, EryP circulate throughout the embryo for several days before the first enucleated forms can be identified in the blood. We have used transgenic mouse lines in which GFP marks EryP to investigate this seemingly long lag and have identified a previously unrecognized developmental niche for EryP maturation. After exiting the yolk sac, EryP begin to express cell adhesion proteins, including alpha4, alpha5, and beta1 integrins, on their surface and migrate into the fetal liver (FL), where they interact with macrophages within erythroblastic islands. Binding of EryP to FL macrophages in vitro is stage-specific and partly depends on VCAM-1. The ability to tag and track EryP nuclei using a transgenic mouse line expressing an H2B-EGFP fusion allowed us to identify and characterize extruded EryP nuclei and to demonstrate that molecules such as alpha4, alpha5, and beta1 integrins are redistributed onto the plasma membrane surrounding the extruding nucleus. FL macrophages engulf extruded EryP nuclei in cocultures and in the native FL in vivo. We conclude that EryP home to, complete their maturation, and enucleate within the FL, a tissue that is just developing as EryP begin to circulate. Our observations suggest a simple solution for a puzzling aspect of the development of the primitive erythroid lineage.

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