In β-thalassemia, unequal production of α- and β-globin chains in erythroid precursors causes apoptosis and inhibition of late-stage erythroid differentiation, leading to anemia, ineffective erythropoiesis (IE), and dysregulated iron homeostasis. Here we used a murine model of β-thalassemia intermedia (Hbb(th1/th1) mice) to investigate effects of a modified activin receptor type IIB (ActRIIB) ligand trap (RAP-536) that inhibits Smad2/3 signaling. In Hbb(th1/th1) mice, treatment with RAP-536 reduced overactivation of Smad2/3 in splenic erythroid precursors. In addition, treatment of Hbb(th1/th1) mice with RAP-536 reduced α-globin aggregates in peripheral red cells, decreased the elevated reactive oxygen species present in erythroid precursors and peripheral red cells, and alleviated anemia by promoting differentiation of late-stage erythroid precursors and reducing hemolysis. Notably, RAP-536 treatment mitigated disease complications of IE, including iron overload, splenomegaly, and bone pathology, while reducing erythropoietin levels, improving erythrocyte morphology, and extending erythrocyte life span. These results implicate signaling by the transforming growth factor-β superfamily in late-stage erythropoiesis and reveal potential of a modified ActRIIB ligand trap as a novel therapeutic agent for thalassemia syndrome and other red cell disorders characterized by IE.
© 2014 by The American Society of Hematology.