Nonrenal regulation of EPO synthesis

Weidemann, Alexander; Johnson, Randall S.
April 2009
Kidney International;Apr2009, Vol. 75 Issue 7, p682
Academic Journal
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a circulating glycoprotein hormone whose principal function is thought to be red blood cell production. It is a classic example of a hypoxia-inducible gene, and studies of the induction of EPO synthesis by low oxygen led to the discovery of a widespread system of hypoxia-inducible transcription factors. Tissue-specific expression of the EPO gene is tightly controlled, and in the adult organism the kidney produces around 90% of systemic EPO. Before birth, the liver is the main site of EPO production; factors contributing to the liver-to-kidney switch are still elusive, but may provide clues to the tissue-specificity of EPO gene expression. EPO has also been detected in non-erythropoietic tissues such as the brain, where it is suggested to exert local protective effects. Apart from classical ways of regulating renal EPO during hypoxia and anemia, novel pathways have been discovered that demonstrate that other organ systems in the adult might not only be important for the production of EPO but also for modulating the hypoxic EPO response. Knowledge of the molecular bases of these non-renal pathways will eventually help to develop pharmacological strategies to induce endogenous EPO production when the main source, the kidney, is significantly impaired. This review will provide an overview of the molecular aspects of EPO gene regulation by hypoxia-inducible transcription factors and of the tissue-specific regulation of EPO production in adult mammals. Insights into the biology of EPO production in genetically modified animals, with an emphasis on recent advances in the understanding of non-renal EPO regulation, will be discussed.Kidney International (2009) 75, 682–688; doi:10.1038/ki.2008.687; published online 21 January 2009


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