Erythroid colonies were generated in response to erythropoietin in plasma clot cultures of sheep and goat bone marrow cells. At low concentration erythropoietin only hemoglobin A (betaA globin) was synthesized in goat cultures, but at high concentrations 50% of the hemoglobin synthesized was hemoglobin C (betaC globin). This effect of erythropoietin on the expression of a specific beta globin gene was manifested only after 72 h in vitro and followed the development of erythroid colonies. Sheep colonies behaved differently from those of goat in that little or no betaC globin synthesis occurred even at high erythropoietin concentration. To investigate this difference, sheep marrow cells were fractionated by unit gravity sedimentation. The erythroid colony-forming cells sedimented more rapidly (3.5-6mm/h) than the hemoglobinized eththroid precursors (1-3.5 mm/h), suggesting that the colonies were formed from an early erythroid precursor, However, the colonies formed from the sheep marrow fractions synthesized only betaA globin even at concentrations of erythropoietin sufficient to stimulate betaC globin synthesis in goat colonies. Morphologically, the goat colonies were larger and more mature than those of the sheep. By 96 h in vitro three-fourths of the goat colonies contained enucleated red cells compared to only 3% of the sheep colonies. Thus, erythropoietin had an equivalent effect in stimulating erythroid colony growth from the marrow of both species although there were both biochemical and morphological differences between the colonies. Hemoglobin switching appeared to require exposure of an early precursor to high erythropoietin concentration, but the results with sheep marrow suggested that the rate of colony growth and cellular maturation might also be important.

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