Neomorphic effects of the neonatal anemia (Nan-Eklf) mutation contribute to deficits throughout development.
The switch from proliferation to differentiation during the terminal stages of erythropoiesis is a tightly controlled process that relies in part on transcription factor-mediated activation of cell cycle components. EKLF is a key transcription factor that is necessary for the initial establishment of the red cell phenotype. Here, we find that EKLF also plays a role during the subsequent differentiation process, as it induces p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression independent of p53 to regulate the changes in the cell cycle underlying erythroid maturation. EKLF activates p21 not only by directly binding to an EKLF site within a previously characterized GC-rich region in the p21 proximal promoter but also by occupancy at a novel, phylogenetically conserved region that contains consensus CACCC core motifs located downstream from the p21 TATA box. Our findings demonstrate that EKLF, likely in coordination with other transcription factors, directly contributes to the complex set of events that occur at the final erythroid cell divisions and accentuates terminal differentiation directly by activation of CDK inhibitors such as p21.