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Abstract

Murine erythroid precursor cells, stimulated to proliferate in vitro in the absence of added erythropoietin (EP) by the anemia strain of Friend virus (FVA), will subsequently respond to EP by complete erythrocyte differentiation. If not exposed to EP, the erythroid cells divide for about 120 hr in culture, and they maintain the potential for full differentiation in response to EP added at any time during the period from 72 to 120 hr. Between 96 and 120 hr of culture without added EP, the EP-sensitive erythroid precursor cells that have formed discrete erythroid bursts can be isolated in relatively large numbers from such cultures by plucking with a Pasteur pipette. The addition of EP initiates the final stages of erythroid differentiation, including heme synthesis in 70%-80% of these isolated cells. With respect to homogeneity of the precursor cells, quantity of EP-responsive cells obtainable, and uniformity of EP responsiveness, this system is uniquely favorable for biochemical studies of the late differentiation effects of EP. The overall changes in gene expression accompanying EP- induced terminal differentiation were examined by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of proteins labeled for a short time with radioactive amino acids. Several new proteins are synthesized in these erythroid cells during terminal differentiation, but the number is a very small percentage of the total number of proteins being made. Thus, in this system, the effect of EP is to initiate expression of a small group of genes, including those for globins, spectrin, and other proteins involved in the final stages of erythroid differentiation.