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Erythropoiesis is one of the most efficient cellular processes in the human body producing approximately 2.5 million red blood cells every second. This process occurs in a bone marrow niche comprised of a central resident macrophage surrounded by differentiating erythroblasts, termed an erythroblastic island. It is not known what initially attracts the macrophage to erythroblasts to form these islands. The ephrin/Eph receptor family are known to regulate heterophilic cell-cell adhesion. We find that human VCAM1+ and VCAM1- bone marrow macrophages and in vitro cultured macrophages are ephrin-B2 positive, whereas differentiating human erythroblasts express EPHB4, EPHB6 and EPHA4. Furthermore, we detect a rise in integrin activation on erythroblasts at the stage at which the cells bind which is independent of EPH receptor presence. Using a live cell imaging assay, we show that specific inhibitory peptides or shRNA depletion of EPHB4 cause a significant reduction in the ability of macrophages to interact with erythroblasts but do not affect integrin activation. This study demonstrates for the first time that EPHB4 expression is required on erythroblasts to facilitate the initial recognition and subsequent interaction with macrophages, alongside the presence of active integrins. Copyright© 2020 Ferrata Storti Foundation.


Lea A Hampton-O'Neil, Charlotte E Severn, Stephen J Cross, Sonam Gurung, Catherine D Nobes, Ashley M Toye. Ephrin/Eph receptor interaction facilitates macrophage recognition of differentiating human erythroblasts. Haematologica. 2020 Apr;105(4):914-924

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PMID: 31197068

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