Cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the hepatic erythropoietin expression during acute-phase response: a role for IL-6


Department of Gastroenterology and Endocrinology, Center of Internal Medicine, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


The source of circulating erythropoietin (EPO), the mediators and the mechanisms involved in the upregulation of EPO gene expression during acute-phase reaction are still poorly understood. Acute-phase reaction was induced by either intramuscular turpentine oil (TO) or intraperitoneal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration into wild-type and interleukin (IL)-6 knockout (KO) mice. Animals were killed at different time points and blood, liver and muscle tissue were collected. Serum levels of EPO were measured by enzyme-linked immunoadsorbent assay; liver and injured muscle samples were processed for RNA isolation and for protein analysis. EPO, hypoxia-inducible factors 1alpha and 2alpha (HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha) mRNA were analyzed by RT-PCR and the protein levels were analyzed by western blot and electrophoretic mobility shift assay. HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha localization was performed through immunofluorescence staining. EPO, HIF-1 and HIF-2 gene and protein expression levels were also analyzed in isolated mouse hepatocytes after stimulation with IL-6. In the wild-type animals, EPO serum levels increased dramatically at 12 h after the insults together with the hepatic gene expression. In TO-treated animals, the EPO gene expression reached an 8.2-fold increase at 12 h, and in LPS-treated mice a similar induction was recorded at 6 h (about 4.5-fold increase). In the IL-6KO strain, the upregulation after the inflammatory stimuli was much lower (only 2.0-fold increase). A progressive upregulation of HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha was detectable until 6 h after the insults, but only HIF-1alpha upregulation was reduced in IL-6KO mice. In isolated hepatocytes, stimulation with a single dose of IL-6 induced a nuclear accumulation of HIF-1alpha, in parallel with an increase of EPO mRNA. No effect on HIF-2alpha expression was found. IL-6 appears to be the main regulator of EPO gene expression and a major contributor for HIF-1alpha induction in hepatocytes and Kupffer cells during acute-phase response. The increase of HIF-2alpha, predominantly expressed in endothelial cells and fibroblast-like cells, seems not to be affected by the lack of IL-6.

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