Carbon monoxide induced erythroid differentiation of K562 cells mimics the central macrophage milieu in erythroblastic islands

Shlomi Toobiak, Mati Shaklai, Nurith Shaklai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing evidence supports the role of erythroblastic islands (EI) as microenvironmental niches within bone marrow (BM), where cell-cell attachments are suggested as crucial for erythroid maturation. The inducible form of the enzyme heme oxygenase, HO-1, which conducts heme degradation, is absent in erythroblasts where hemoglobin (Hb) is synthesized. Yet, the central macrophage, which retains high HO-1 activity, might be suitable to take over degradation of extra, harmful, Hb heme. Of these enzymatic products, only the hydrophobic gas molecule - CO can transfer from the macrophage to surrounding erythroblasts directly via their tightly attached membranes in the terminal differentiation stage. Based on the above, the study hypothesized CO to have a role in erythroid maturation. Thus, the effect of CO gas as a potential erythroid differentiation inducer on the common model for erythroid progenitors, K562 cells, was explored. Cells were kept under oxygen lacking environment to mimic BM conditions. Nitrogen anaerobic atmosphere (N 2A) served as control for CO atmosphere (COA). Under both atmospheres cells proliferation ceased: in N 2A due to cell death, while in COA as a result of erythroid differentiation. Maturation was evaluated by increased glycophorin A expression and Hb concentration. Addition of 1%CO only to N 2A, was adequate for maintaining cell viability. Yet, the average Hb concentration was low as compared to COA. This was validated to be the outcome of diversified maturation stages of the progenitor's population. In fact, the above scenario mimics the in vivo EI conditions, where at any given moment only a minute portion of the progenitors proceeds into terminal differentiation. Hence, this model might provide a basis for further molecular investigations of the EI structure/function relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere33940
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Carbon monoxide induced erythroid differentiation of K562 cells mimics the central macrophage milieu in erythroblastic islands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this