Elevated CDKN1A (P21) mediates β-thalassemia erythroid apoptosis, but its loss does not improve β-thalassemic erythropoiesis

Raymond Liang, Miao Lin, Vijay Menon, Jiajing Qiu, Anagha Menon, Laura Breda, Tasleem Arif, Stefano Rivella, Saghi Ghaffari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


β-thalassemias are common hemoglobinopathies due to mutations in the β-globin gene that lead to hemolytic anemias. Premature death of β-thalassemic erythroid precursors results in ineffective erythroid maturation, increased production of erythropoietin (EPO), expansion of erythroid progenitor compartment, extramedullary erythropoiesis, and splenomegaly. However, the molecular mechanism of erythroid apoptosis in β-thalassemia is not well understood. Using a mouse model of β-thalassemia (Hbbth3/+), we show that dysregulated expression of the FOXO3 transcription factor is implicated in β-thalassemia erythroid apoptosis. In Foxo3-/-/Hbbth3/+ mice, erythroid apoptosis is significantly reduced, whereas erythroid cell maturation, and red blood cell and hemoglobin production are substantially improved even with elevated reactive oxygen species in double-mutant erythroblasts. However, persistence of elevated reticulocytes and splenomegaly suggests that ineffective erythropoiesis is not resolved in Foxo3-/-/Hbbth3/+. We found the cell cycle inhibitor Cdkn1a (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21), a FOXO3 target gene, is markedly upregulated in both mouse and patient–derived β-thalassemic erythroid precursors. Double-mutant p21/Hbbth3/+ mice exhibited embryonic lethality with only a fraction of mice surviving to weaning. Notably, studies in adult mice displayed greatly reduced apoptosis and circulating Epo in erythroid compartments of surviving p21-/-/Hbbth3/+ mice relative to Hbbth3/+ mice, whereas ineffective erythroid cell maturation, extramedullary erythropoiesis, and splenomegaly were not modified. These combined results suggest that mechanisms that control β-thalassemic erythroid cell survival and differentiation are uncoupled from ineffective erythropoiesis and involve a molecular network including FOXO3 and P21. Overall, these studies provide a new framework for investigating ineffective erythropoiesis in β-thalassemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6873-6885
Number of pages13
JournalBlood advances
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2023


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