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

The embryonic origins of erythropoiesis in mammals

  1. Margaret H. Baron15,
  2. Joan Isern1,4, and
  3. Stuart T. Fraser1,4,5
  1. Departments of 1Medicine,
  2. 2Developmental and Regenerative Biology, and
  3. 3Oncological Sciences,
  4. 4Tisch Cancer Institute, and
  5. 5Black Family Stem Cell Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY


Erythroid (red blood) cells are the first cell type to be specified in the postimplantation mammalian embryo and serve highly specialized, essential functions throughout gestation and postnatal life. The existence of 2 developmentally and morphologically distinct erythroid lineages, primitive (embryonic) and definitive (adult), was described for the mammalian embryo more than a century ago. Cells of the primitive erythroid lineage support the transition from rapidly growing embryo to fetus, whereas definitive erythrocytes function during the transition from fetal life to birth and continue to be crucial for a variety of normal physiologic processes. Over the past few years, it has become apparent that the ontogeny and maturation of these lineages are more complex than previously appreciated. In this review, we highlight some common and distinguishing features of the red blood cell lineages and summarize advances in our understanding of how these cells develop and differentiate throughout mammalian ontogeny.

  • Submitted January 1, 2012.
  • Accepted February 9, 2012.
View Full Text