Mutations in the zebrafish hmgcs1 gene reveal a novel function for isoprenoids during red blood cell development

Blood Adv. 2019 Apr 23;3(8):1244-1254. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2018024539.


Erythropoiesis is the process by which new red blood cells (RBCs) are formed and defects in this process can lead to anemia or thalassemia. The GATA1 transcription factor is an established mediator of RBC development. However, the upstream mechanisms that regulate the expression of GATA1 are not completely characterized. Cholesterol is 1 potential upstream mediator of GATA1 expression because previously published studies suggest that defects in cholesterol synthesis disrupt RBC differentiation. Here we characterize RBC development in a zebrafish harboring a single missense mutation in the hmgcs1 gene (Vu57 allele). hmgcs1 encodes the first enzyme in the cholesterol synthesis pathway and mutation of hmgcs1 inhibits cholesterol synthesis. We analyzed the number of RBCs in hmgcs1 mutants and their wild-type siblings. Mutation of hmgcs1 resulted in a decrease in the number of mature RBCs, which coincides with reduced gata1a expression. We combined these experiments with pharmacological inhibition and confirmed that cholesterol and isoprenoid synthesis are essential for RBC differentiation, but that gata1a expression is isoprenoid dependent. Collectively, our results reveal 2 novel upstream regulators of RBC development and suggest that appropriate cholesterol homeostasis is critical for primitive erythropoiesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology*
  • Erythropoiesis / genetics*
  • GATA1 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis
  • GATA1 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Synthase* / genetics
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Synthase* / metabolism
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Terpenes / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish* / genetics
  • Zebrafish* / metabolism


  • GATA1 Transcription Factor
  • Terpenes
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • gata1a protein, zebrafish
  • Cholesterol
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Synthase