Runx1 promotes murine erythroid progenitor proliferation and inhibits differentiation by preventing Pu.1 downregulation

Michael A. Willcockson, Samuel J. Taylor, Srikanta Ghosh, Sean E. Healton, Justin C. Wheat, Tommy J. Wilson, Ulrich Steidl, Arthur I. Skoultchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Pu.1 is an ETS family transcription factor (TF) that plays critical roles in erythroid progenitors by promoting proliferation and blocking terminal differentiation. However, the mechanisms controlling expression and down-regulation of Pu.1 during early erythropoiesis have not been defined. In this study, we identify the actions of Runx1 and Pu.1 itself at the Pu.1 gene Upstream Regulatory Element (URE) as major regulators of Pu.1 expression in Burst-Forming Unit erythrocytes (BFUe). During early erythropoiesis, Runx1 and Pu.1 levels decline, and chromatin accessibility at the URE is lost. Ectopic expression of Runx1 or Pu.1, both of which bind the URE, prevents Pu.1 down-regulation and blocks terminal erythroid differentiation, resulting in extensive ex vivo proliferation and immortalization of erythroid progenitors. Ectopic expression of Runx1 in BFUe lacking a URE fails to block terminal erythroid differentiation. Thus, Runx1, acting at the URE, and Pu.1 itself directly regulate Pu.1 levels in erythroid cells, and loss of both factors is critical for Pu.1 down-regulation during terminal differentiation. The molecularmechanism of URE inactivation in erythroid cells through loss of TF binding represents a distinct pattern of Pu.1 regulation from those described in other hematopoietic cell types such as T cells which down-regulate Pu.1 through active repression. The importance of down-regulation of Runx1 and Pu.1 in erythropoiesis is further supported by genome-wide analyses showing that their DNA-binding motifs are highly overrepresented in regions that lose chromatin accessibility during early erythroid development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17841-17847
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019


  • Erythropoiesis
  • Gene regulation
  • Pu.1
  • Runx1
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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