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Stem Cells Dev. 2012 Oct 10;21(15):2852-65. doi: 10.1089/scd.2011.0676. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

The expression of the glucocorticoid receptor in human erythroblasts is uniquely regulated by KIT ligand: implications for stress erythropoiesis.

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Tisch Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Studies in mice indicated that activation of the erythroid stress pathway requires the presence of both soluble KIT ligand (KITL) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). To clarify the relative role of KITL and GR in stress erythropoiesis in humans, the biological activities of soluble full length- (fl-, 26-190 aa), carboxy-terminus truncated (tr-, 26-162 aa) human (hKITL) and murine (mKITL) KITL in cultures of cord blood (CB) mononuclear cells (MNCs) and CD34(pos) cells that mimic either steady state (growth factors alone) or stress (growth factors plus dexamethasone [DXM]) erythropoeisis were investigated. In steady state cultures, the KITLs investigated were equally potent in sustaining growth of hematopoietic colonies and expansion of megakaryocytes (MK) and erythroid precursors (EBs). By contrast, under stress erythropoiesis conditions, fl-hKITL generated greater numbers of EBs (fold increase [FI]=140) than tr-hKITL or mKITL (FI=20-40). Flow cytometric analyses indicated that only EBs generated with fl-hKITL remained immature (>70% CD36(pos)/CD235a(neg/low)), and therefore capable to proliferate, until day 8-12 in response to DXM. Signaling studies indicated that all KITLs investigated induced EBs to phosphorylate signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) but that extracellular-signaling-regulated-kinases (ERK) activation was observed mainly in the presence of fl-hKITL. EBs exposed to fl-hKITL also expressed higher levels of GRα than those exposed to mKITL (and tr-hKITL) which were reduced upon exposure to the ERK inhibitor U0126. These data reveal a unique requirement for fl-hKITL in the upregulation of GRα and optimal EB expansion in cultures that mimic stress erythropoiesis.

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