Lack of functional erythropoietin receptors of cancer cell lines

Int J Cancer. 2008 Mar 1;122(5):1005-11. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23201.


Erythropoietin (Epo) therapy reduces red cell transfusion requirements and improves the quality of life of anemic cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. However, there is concern that Epo may promote tumor growth. We investigated by real-time RT-PCR, immunofluorescence microscopy, Western blotting and cell growth analysis whether human cancer cell lines (SH-SY5Y, MCF7, HepG2, U2-OS, HeLa, HEK293T, RCC4, HCT116, 7860wt and SW480) possess functional Epo receptors (EpoR). We detected EpoR mRNA in all cell lines. Neither hypoxia nor Epo treatment altered the level of EpoR mRNA expression. Four commonly used commercial antibodies proved to be unsuitable for immunoblot procedures because they cross-reacted with several proteins unrelated with EpoR. Depending on the antibody used, EpoR was localized to the plasma membrane, the cytoplasm or the nucleus. Experiments with small interfering RNA showed that EpoR protein was not expressed by the tumor cells except by UT7/Epo leukemia cells, which served as an EpoR positive control line, and by cells transfected with the human EpoR gene. Apart from UT7/Epo, none of the tumor cell lines responded to Epo treatment with phosphorylation of signaling molecules or with cell proliferation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cross Reactions
  • Erythropoietin / pharmacology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / drug effects
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Transfection


  • Antibodies
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin
  • Erythropoietin