microRNA miR-144 modulates oxidative stress tolerance and associates with anemia severity in sickle cell disease

Blood. 2010 Nov 18;116(20):4338-48. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-04-214817. Epub 2010 Aug 13.


Although individuals with homozygous sickle cell disease (HbSS) share the same genetic mutation, the severity and manifestations of this disease are extremely heterogeneous. We have previously shown that the microRNA expression in normal and HbSS erythrocytes exhibit dramatic differences. In this study, we identify a subset of HbSS patients with higher erythrocytic miR-144 expression and more severe anemia. HbSS erythrocytes are known to have reduced tolerance for oxidative stress, yet the basis for this phenotype remains unknown. This study reveals that miR-144 directly regulates nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2, a central regulator of cellular response to oxidative stress, and modulates the oxidative stress response in K562 cell line and primary erythroid progenitor cells. We further demonstrate that increased miR-144 is associated with reduced NRF2 levels in HbSS reticulocytes and with decreased glutathione regeneration and attenuated antioxidant capacity in HbSS erythrocytes, thereby providing a possible mechanism for the reduced oxidative stress tolerance and increased anemia severity seen in HbSS patients. Taken together, our findings suggest that erythroid microRNAs can serve as genetic modifiers of HbS-related anemia and can provide novel insights into the clinical heterogeneity and pathobiology of sickle cell disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / classification
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / genetics*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / pathology*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Erythroid Precursor Cells / metabolism
  • Erythroid Precursor Cells / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Response Elements / genetics
  • Reticulocytes / metabolism
  • Reticulocytes / pathology


  • Antioxidants
  • MIRN144 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • Glutathione