Yolk sac-derived primitive erythroblasts enucleate during mammalian embryogenesis

Blood. 2004 Jul 1;104(1):19-25. doi: 10.1182/blood-2003-12-4162. Epub 2004 Mar 18.


The enucleated definitive erythrocytes of mammals are unique in the animal kingdom. The observation that yolk sac-derived primitive erythroid cells in mammals circulate as nucleated cells has led to the conjecture that they are related to the red cells of fish, amphibians, and birds that remain nucleated throughout their life span. In mice, primitive red cells express both embryonic and adult hemoglobins, whereas definitive erythroblasts accumulate only adult hemoglobins. We investigated the terminal differentiation of murine primitive red cells with use of antibodies raised to embryonic beta H1-globin. Primitive erythroblasts progressively enucleate between embryonic days 12.5 and 16.5, generating mature primitive erythrocytes that are similar in size to their nucleated counterparts. These enucleated primitive erythrocytes circulate as late as 5 days after birth. The enucleation of primitive red cells in the mouse embryo has not previously been well recognized because it coincides with the emergence of exponentially expanding numbers of definitive erythrocytes from the fetal liver. Our studies establish a new paradigm in the understanding of primitive erythropoiesis and support the concept that primitive erythropoiesis in mice shares many similarities with definitive erythropoiesis of mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Size
  • Embryo, Mammalian / blood supply
  • Erythroblasts / cytology
  • Erythroblasts / physiology*
  • Erythroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Erythrocytes / cytology
  • Erythropoiesis / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Globins / biosynthesis
  • Globins / chemistry
  • Globins / immunology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice / embryology*
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Pregnancy
  • Yolk Sac / cytology
  • Yolk Sac / physiology*


  • Globins