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Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a rare genetic disorder in which patients present a scarcity of erythroid precursors in an otherwise normocellular bone marrow. Most, but not all, patients carry mutations in ribosomal proteins such as RPS19, suggesting that compromised mRNA translation and ribosomal stress are pathogenic mechanisms causing depletion of erythroid precursors. To gain further insight to disease mechanisms in DBA, we performed a custom short hairpin RNA (shRNA) based screen against 750 genes hypothesized to affect DBA pathophysiology. Among the hits were two shRNAs against the erythroid specific heme-regulated eIF2α kinase (HRI), which is a negative regulator of mRNA translation. This study shows that shRNA-mediated HRI silencing or loss of one HRI allele improves expansion of Rps19-deficient erythroid precursors, as well as improves the anemic phenotype in Rps19-deficient animals. We found that Rps19-deficient erythroblasts have elevated levels of unbound intracellular heme, which is normalized by HRI heterozygosity. Additionally, targeting elevated heme levels by treating cells with the heme scavenger alpha-1-microglobulin (A1M), increased proliferation of Rps19-deficient erythroid precursors and decreased heme levels in a disease-specific manner. HRI heterozygosity, but not A1M treatment, also decreased the elevated p53 activity observed in Rps19-deficient cells, indicating that p53 activation is caused by ribosomal stress and aberrant mRNA translation and not heme overload in Rps19-deficiency. Together, these findings suggest that targeting elevated heme levels is a promising new treatment strategy for DBA. Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.


Sara E Sjögren, Jun Chen, Alexander Mattebo, Abdul G Alattar, Helena Karlsson, Kavitha Siva, Shamit Soneji, Ulf Tedgård, Jane-Jane Chen, Magnus Gram, Johan Flygare. Targeting elevated heme levels to treat a mouse model for Diamond-Blackfan Anemia. Experimental hematology. 2022 Jan;105:50-61

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PMID: 34757171

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