The erythropoietin receptor

Semin Oncol. 2001 Apr;28(2 Suppl 8):19-23. doi: 10.1016/s0093-7754(01)90208-8.


Erythropoietin (EPO) is the primary regulator of erythropoiesis, and promotes the survival, proliferation, and differentiation of erythroid progenitor cells. The EPO receptor belongs to the same family of receptors as growth hormone, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor, and some interleukins. In the erythropoietic process, EPO induces homodimerization of the EPO receptor, which is located on the surface of erythroid progenitor cells. Dimerization activates the receptor-associated Janus kinase 2 via transphosphorylation. Specific tyrosines in the intracellular portion of the receptor are phosphorylated and serve as a docking site for intracellular proteins, including one of the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT5). This results in activating various cascades of signal transduction. STAT5 enters the nucleus on phosphorylation, inducing the transcription of erythroid genes. Phosphatases dephosphorylate Janus kinase 2 and downregulate the EPO receptor. Erythropoietin receptor activation seems to exert its effect by inhibiting apoptosis rather than by affecting the commitment of erythroid lineage, although the mechanism by which this occurs is as yet unclear. Anemia in cancer is associated with excessive production of cytokines that inhibit EPO synthesis, thereby interfering with the normal erythropoietic process, which leads to a reduction in red blood cells and the ability to oxygenate tissue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Erythropoiesis / physiology*
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Erythropoietin
  • Erythropoietin