In all vertebrates, the cell nucleus becomes highly condensed and transcriptionally inactive during the final stages of red cell biogenesis. Enucleation, the process by which the nucleus is extruded by budding off from the erythroblast, is unique to mammals. Enucleation has critical physiological and evolutionary significance in that it allows an elevation of hemoglobin levels in the blood and also gives red cells their flexible biconcave shape. Recent experiments reveal that enucleation involves multiple molecular and cellular pathways that include histone deacetylation, actin polymerization, cytokinesis, cell-matrix interactions, specific microRNAs and vesicle trafficking; many evolutionarily conserved proteins and genes have been recruited to participate in this uniquely mammalian process. In this review, we discuss recent advances in mammalian erythroblast chromatin condensation and enucleation, and conclude with our perspectives on future studies.
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