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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 5;5(8):e12015. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012015.

EPO receptor gain-of-function causes hereditary polycythemia, alters CD34 cell differentiation and increases circulating endothelial precursors.

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Department of Pediatrics, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.



Gain-of-function of erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) mutations represent the major cause of primary hereditary polycythemia. EPOR is also found in non-erythroid tissues, although its physiological role is still undefined.


We describe a family with polycythemia due to a heterozygous mutation of the EPOR gene that causes a G-->T change at nucleotide 1251 of exon 8. The novel EPOR G1251T mutation results in the replacement of a glutamate residue by a stop codon at amino acid 393. Differently from polycythemia vera, EPOR G1251T CD34(+) cells proliferate and differentiate towards the erythroid phenotype in the presence of minimal amounts of EPO. Moreover, the affected individuals show a 20-fold increase of circulating endothelial precursors. The analysis of erythroid precursor membranes demonstrates a heretofore undescribed accumulation of the truncated EPOR, probably due to the absence of residues involved in the EPO-dependent receptor internalization and degradation. Mutated receptor expression in EPOR-negative cells results in EPOR and Stat5 phosphorylation. Moreover, patient erythroid precursors present an increased activation of EPOR and its effectors, including Stat5 and Erk1/2 pathway.


Our data provide an unanticipated mechanism for autosomal dominant inherited polycythemia due to a heterozygous EPOR mutation and suggest a regulatory role of EPO/EPOR pathway in human circulating endothelial precursors homeostasis.

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