Background: Erythropoietin (EPO) is an essential growth factor for erythroid cells and is mainly secreted from the kidneys and subsidiarily from the livers of adult mammals in an anemia/hypoxia-inducible manner. Aim and method: To elucidate the regulatory mechanisms of stress-inducible and cell type-specific Epo gene transcription, the rate-limiting step of EPO production, we investigated the sufficiency of a 180-kb genomic fragment flanking the mouse Epo gene locus for recapitulating endogenous Epo gene function by a transgene complementation strategy. Key findings: While Epo gene-deficient mice exhibited lethal anemia in utero with defects in erythroblast proliferation and maturation, Epo-knockout mice integrated with the 180-kb Epo transgene showed normal erythropoiesis throughout life. In the transgene-rescued mice, liver-specific deletion of the transgene by the Cre-loxP recombination system caused neonatal anemia with erythropoietic defects in the liver but not in the spleen, indicating the essential function of hepatic EPO on normal erythropoiesis in the liver, which is the major erythropoietic site in late embryonic and neonatal stages. Significance: These results demonstrate that the 180 kb Epo gene flanking region contains the fully functional Epo gene unit and that EPO from the liver dominantly stimulates hepatic erythropoiesis but contributes less to erythropoiesis in other organs.
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