Key Points

  • Deficiency of the equilibrative nucleotide transporter ENT1 results in abnormal erythropoiesis in humans and mice

  • Inhibition of the ABCC4 cyclic nucleotide exporter enhances erythroid differentiation in the absence of ENT1

The tight regulation of intracellular nucleotides is critical for the self-renewal and lineage specification of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Nucleosides are major metabolite precursors for nucleotide biosynthesis and their availability in HSCs is dependent on their transport through specific membrane transporters. However, the role of nucleoside transporters in the differentiation of HSCs to the erythroid lineage and in red cell biology remains to be fully defined. Here, we show that the absence of the equilibrative nucleoside transporter (ENT1) in human red blood cells (RBCs) with a rare Augustine-null blood type (AUG:-1) is associated with macrocytosis, anisopoikilocytosis, an abnormal nucleotide metabolome, and deregulated protein phosphorylation. A specific role for ENT1 in human erythropoiesis was demonstrated by a defective erythropoiesis of human CD34+ progenitors following shRNA-mediated knockdown of ENT1. Furthermore, genetic deletion of ENT1 in mice was associated with reduced erythroid progenitors in the bone marrow, anemia and macrocytosis. Mechanistically, we found that ENT1-mediated adenosine transport is critical for cAMP homeostasis and the regulation of erythroid transcription factors. Notably, genetic investigation of two ENT1null individuals demonstrated a compensation by a loss-of-function variant in the ABCC4 cyclic nucleotide exporter. Indeed, pharmacological inhibition of ABCC4 in Ent1-/- mice rescued erythropoiesis. Overall, our results highlight the importance of ENT1-mediated nucleotide metabolism in erythropoiesis.

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