From the Cradle to the Grave: The Role of Macrophages in Erythropoiesis and Erythrophagocytosis

Thomas R L Klei, Sanne M Meinderts, Timo K van den Berg, Robin van Bruggen

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152 Citations (Scopus)


Erythropoiesis is a highly regulated process where sequential events ensure the proper differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells into, ultimately, red blood cells (RBCs). Macrophages in the bone marrow play an important role in hematopoiesis by providing signals that induce differentiation and proliferation of the earliest committed erythroid progenitors. Subsequent differentiation toward the erythroblast stage is accompanied by the formation of so-called erythroblastic islands where a central macrophage provides further cues to induce erythroblast differentiation, expansion, and hemoglobinization. Finally, erythroblasts extrude their nuclei that are phagocytosed by macrophages whereas the reticulocytes are released into the circulation. While in circulation, RBCs slowly accumulate damage that is repaired by macrophages of the spleen. Finally, after 120 days of circulation, senescent RBCs are removed from the circulation by splenic and liver macrophages. Macrophages are thus important for RBCs throughout their lifespan. Finally, in a range of diseases, the delicate interplay between macrophages and both developing and mature RBCs is disturbed. Here, we review the current knowledge on the contribution of macrophages to erythropoiesis and erythrophagocytosis in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73
JournalFrontiers in Immunology: Molecular Innate Immunity
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Review

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