Erythropoietin (Epo), which is produced by the kidney in the adult and by the liver in the fetus, increases red blood cells by supporting the survival of erythroid progenitor cells and stimulating their differentiation and proliferation via binding to Epo receptor (EpoR). The main signal in the control of Epo production is oxygen; hypoxia stimulates Epo production through activation of Epo gene transcription. Tremendous progress in our understanding of molecular mechanisms of Epo action on erythroid cells and regulation of the Epo production has been made by manipulation of cDNAs and genes of Epo and EpoR. Studies on hypoxic induction of Epo gene transcription led to the identification of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1), a transcriptional factor, that functions as a global regulator of hypoxic gene expression. Paracrine Epo/EpoR systems that are independent of the endocrine erythropoietic system (kidney/bone marrow) have been found in the central nervous system and uterus. Novel functions of Epo at these local sites and tissue-specific regulation of Epo production including a newly found potent regulator (estrogen) have been proposed. The tissue-specific regulation rationalizes the specific functions of Epo produced by individual tissues.
2000 by Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry