The erythroid-specific isoform of δ-aminolevulinate synthase (ALAS-E) catalyzes the first step of heme biosynthesis in erythroid cells, and ALAS-E gene mutations are known to be responsible for x-linked sideroblastic anemia. To study the role of ALAS-E in erythroid development, we prepared mouse embryonic stem (ES) calls carrying a disrupted ALAS-E gene and examined the effect of the lack of ALAS-E gene expression on erythroid differentiation. We found that mRNAs for erythroid transcription factors and TER119-positive calls were increased similarly both in the wild-type end mutant cells. In contrast, heme content, the number of benzidine-positive cells, adult globin protein, and mRNA for β-major globin were significantly decreased in the mutant cells. These results were confirmed using another ES differentiation system in vitro and suggest that ALAS-E expression, hence heme supply, is critical for the late stage of erythroid call differentiation, which involves hemoglobin synthesis.
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