Iron deficiency disrupts embryonic haematopoiesis but not the endothelial to haematopoietic transition

Sci Rep. 2019 Apr 23;9(1):6414. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42765-y.


In this study, we aimed to explore how cellular iron status affects embryonic haematopoiesis. For this purpose, we used a model of mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation into embryonic haematopoietic progenitors. We modulated the iron status by adding either the iron chelator Deferoxamine (DFO) for iron deficiency, or ferric ammonium citrate for iron excess, and followed the emergence of developing haematopoietic progenitors. Interestingly, we found that iron deficiency did not block the endothelial to haematopoietic transition, the first step of haematopoiesis. However, it did reduce the proliferation, survival and clonogenic capacity of haematopoietic progenitors. Surprisingly, iron deficiency affected erythro-myeloid progenitors significantly more than the primitive erythroid ones. Erythro-myeloid progenitors expressed less transferrin-receptor on the cell surface and had less labile iron compared to primitive erythroid progenitors, which could reduce their capacity to compete for scarce iron and survive iron deficiency. In conclusion, we show that iron deficiency could disturb haematopoiesis at an early embryonic stage by compromising more severely the survival, proliferation and differentiation of definitive haematopoietic progenitors compared to restricted erythroid progenitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Receptors, Transferrin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit