Since exogenous hemin has been shown to exert a variety of stimulatory effects on erythroid cells, including the augmentation of hemoglobin synthesis, we determined its effect on early stages of erythroid development by employing clonal cells assays. The addition of hemin at a concentration of 2 X 10(-4) M to cultures of normal murine marrow substantially increased the observed number of primitive BFU-E, which was in contrast to its lack of an effect on more mature erythroid colony-forming cells. This cell-specific enhancement of primitive BFU-E resulted in marrow frequencies equivalent to or exceeding those reported in the presence of “burst-promoting activity.” In the presence of hemin, the number of BFU-E was also observed to be linearly related to the number of cells plated at very low plating densities, and the cell titration curve was observed to extrapolate to the origin. The evidence suggests that hemin may be a primary growth regulator of early developmental stages of erythroid progenitor cells.

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