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Blood. 2010 Nov 25;116(22):4483-91. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-03-276501. Epub 2010 Aug 26.

Early mammalian erythropoiesis requires the Dot1L methyltransferase.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Cancer and Developmental Biology, Institute for Reproductive Health and Regenerative Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA.


Histone methylation is an important regulator of gene expression; its coordinated activity is critical in complex developmental processes such as hematopoiesis. Disruptor of telomere silencing 1-like (DOT1L) is a unique histone methyltransferase that specifically methylates histone H3 at lysine 79. We analyzed Dot1L-mutant mice to determine influence of this enzyme on embryonic hematopoiesis. Mutant mice developed more slowly than wild-type embryos and died between embryonic days 10.5 and 13.5, displaying a striking anemia, especially apparent in small vessels of the yolk sac. Further, a severe, selective defect in erythroid, but not myeloid, differentiation was observed. Erythroid progenitors failed to develop normally, showing retarded progression through the cell cycle, accumulation during G₀/G₁ stage, and marked increase in apoptosis in response to erythroid growth factors. GATA2, a factor essential for early erythropoiesis, was significantly reduced in Dot1L-deficient cells, whereas expression of PU.1, a transcription factor that inhibits erythropoiesis and promotes myelopoiesis, was increased. These data suggest a model whereby DOT1L-dependent lysine 79 of histone H3 methylation serves as a critical regulator of a differentiation switch during early hematopoiesis, regulating steady-state levels of GATA2 and PU.1 transcription, thus controlling numbers of circulating erythroid and myeloid cells.

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