Hematopoietic factor erythropoietin fosters neuroprotection through novel signal transduction cascades

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2002 May;22(5):503-14. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200205000-00001.


In addition to promoting the survival, proliferation, and differentiation of immature erythroid cells, erythropoietin and the erythropoietin receptor have recently been shown to modulate cellular signal transduction pathways that extend beyond the erythropoietic function of erythropoietin. In particular, erythropoietin has been linked to the prevention of programmed cell death in neuronal systems. Although this work is intriguing, the underlying molecular mechanisms that serve to mediate neuroprotection by erythropoietin are not well understood. Further analysis illustrates that erythropoietin modulates two distinct components of programmed cell death that involve the degradation of DNA and the externalization of cellular membrane phosphatidylserine residues. Initiation of the cascades that modulate protection by erythropoietin and its receptor may begin with the activation of the Janus tyrosine kinase 2 protein. Subsequent downstream mechanisms appear to lead to the activation of multiple signal transduction pathways that include transcription factor STAT5 (signal transducers and activators of transcription), Bcl-2, protein kinase B, cysteine proteases, mitogen-activated protein kinases, protein-tyrosine phosphatases, and nuclear factor-kappaB. New knowledge of the cellular pathways regulated by erythropoietin in neuronal environments will potentially solidify the development and initiation of therapeutic strategies against nervous system disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Erythropoietin / genetics
  • Erythropoietin / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / genetics
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Erythropoietin
  • Erythropoietin
  • Protein Kinases
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases