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Vijay G. Sankaran

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date: 02 March 2021

Erythropoiesis is a highly regulated, multistep process in which stem cells, after a series of amplification divisions, generate multipotential progenitor cells, then oligo- and finally unilineage erythroid progenitors, and then morphologically recognizable erythroid precursors and mature red cells. The ontogeny of erythropoiesis involves a series of well-coordinated events during embryonic and early fetal life. In the fetus, the main site of erythropoiesis is the liver, which initially produces mainly fetal haemoglobin (HbF, α‎2γ‎2) and a small component (10–15%) of adult haemoglobin (HbA, α‎2β‎2), with the fraction of HbA rising to about 50% at birth. After birth, the site of erythroid cell production maintained throughout life is the bone marrow, with the final adult erythroid pattern (adult Hb with <1% fetal Hb) being reached a few months after birth. Regulation of erythropoiesis—the main regulator is erythropoietin, a sialoglycoprotein that is produced by interstitial cells in the kidney in response to tissue hypoxia and exerts its effect by binding to a specific receptor on erythroid burst-forming units, erythroid colony-forming units, and proerythroblasts. Abnormal erythropoietin production—anaemia can be caused by acquired or congenital deficiency in erythropoietin production, most commonly in chronic kidney disease. Impaired tissue oxygen delivery is a common cause of erythropoietin-driven secondary erythrocytosis. Some kidney cancers increase erythropoietin production and hence cause secondary erythrocytosis. Other causes of abnormal erythroid production include (1) acquired and congenital defects in erythropoietin signalling; (2) acquired and congenital defects in the transcription factors GATA1 or EKLF; (3) acquired or congenital abnormalities in ribosome synthesis or splicing factors; and (4) factors that lead to premature red cell destruction.

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