Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Regulation of protein synthesis by the heme-regulated eIF2α kinase: relevance to anemias

  1. Jane-Jane Chen1
  1. 1Harvard–Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), MIT, Cambridge, MA


During erythroid differentiation and maturation, it is critical that the 3 components of hemoglobin, α-globin, β-globin, and heme, are made in proper stoichiometry to form stable hemoglobin. Heme-regulated translation mediated by the heme-regulated inhibitor kinase (HRI) provides one major mechanism that ensures balanced synthesis of globins and heme. HRI phosphorylates the α-subunit of eukaryotic translational initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) in heme deficiency, thereby inhibiting protein synthesis globally. In this manner, HRI serves as a feedback inhibitor of globin synthesis by sensing the intracellular concentration of heme through its heme-binding domains. HRI is essential not only for the translational regulation of globins, but also for the survival of erythroid precursors in iron deficiency. Recently, the protective function of HRI has also been demonstrated in murine models of erythropoietic protoporphyria and β-thalassemia. In these 3 anemias, HRI is essential in determining red blood cell size, number, and hemoglobin content per cell. Translational regulation by HRI is critical to reduce excess synthesis of globin proteins or heme under nonoptimal disease states, and thus reduces the severity of these diseases. The protective role of HRI may be more common among red cell disorders.

  • Submitted August 15, 2006.
  • Accepted November 9, 2006.
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