Erythropoietin (Epo) and its receptor (EpoR) are indispensable to erythropoiesis. Although roles besides angiogenesis, such as neuroprotection and heart development, have been reported for the Epo-EpoR system, the precise contribution of Epo-EpoR to these nonhematopoietic tissues requires clarification. Exploiting a GATA-1 minigene cassette with hematopoietic regulatory domains, we established 2 lines of transgene-rescued EpoR-null mutant mice expressing EpoR exclusively in the hematopoietic lineage. Surprisingly, despite the lack of EpoR expression in nonhematopoietic tissues, these mice develop normally and are fertile. As such, we could exploit them for analyzing the roles of the Epo-EpoR system in adult hematopoiesis and in nonhematopoietic tissues. These rescued lines showed a differential level of EpoR expression in erythroid cells; one expressed approximately 40%, and the other expressed 120% of the wild-type EpoR level. A colony formation assay showed that erythroid progenitors in the 2 mutant lines exhibit distinct sensitivity to Epo. The circulating Epo level was much higher in the transgenic line with a lower EpoR expression. In response to induced anemia, the plasma Epo concentrations increased in both lines. Notably, the timing of the peak of plasma Epo concentration was delayed in both lines of rescued mice compared with wild type, suggesting that, in wild-type mice, nonhematopoietic EpoR contributes to the regulation of plasma Epo concentration. We thus conclude that nonhematopoietic expression of EpoR is dispensable to normal mouse development and that the expression level of EpoR regulates erythropoiesis by controlling the sensitivity of erythroid progenitors to Epo.
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