The role of the liver in the production of thrombopoietin compared with erythropoietin

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2001 Jul;13(7):791-801. doi: 10.1097/00042737-200107000-00006.


The liver plays an important role in the production of haemopoietic hormones. It acts as the primary site of synthesis of erythropoietin (EPO) in the fetal stage, and it is the predominant thrombopoietin (TPO)-producing organ for life. In contrast to that of EPO and other liver proteins, the hepatic synthesis of TPO is influenced little by external signals. Hepatocytes express the TPO gene in a constitutive way, i.e. irrespective of the level of platelets in blood. Megakaryocytes and platelets remove the hormone from blood by means of their high-affinity TPO receptors. Normally, the plasma level of TPO is relatively low ( approximately 10(-12) mol/l). However, in thrombocytopenic states due to marrow failure or bleeding, the concentration of circulating TPO may increase greatly. The simple feedback regulation by TPO and its target cells is efficient in maintaining constant platelet numbers in healthy people. Persisting thrombocytopenia develops only in severe liver or marrow failure. On the other hand, an increase in circulating TPO and interleukin 6 (IL-6) may cause reactive thrombocytosis in inflammatory diseases, including cancer. The indications for recombinant human thrombopoietin (rHuTPO) therapy and its impact on transfusion medicine are still under investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism*
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Thrombocytosis
  • Thrombopoietin / metabolism*
  • Thrombopoietin / therapeutic use


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Thrombopoietin