The EPO-FGF23 Signaling Pathway in Erythroid Progenitor Cells: Opening a New Area of Research

Annelies J. Van Vuren*, Carlo A.J.M. Gaillard, Michele F. Eisenga, Richard Van Wijk, Eduard J. Van Beers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We provide an overview of the evidence for an erythropoietin-fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) signaling pathway directly influencing erythroid cells in the bone marrow. We outline its importance for red blood cell production, which might add, among others, to the understanding of bone marrow responses to endogenous erythropoietin in rare hereditary anemias. FGF23 is a hormone that is mainly known as the core regulator of phosphate and vitamin D metabolism and it has been recognized as an important regulator of bone mineralization. Osseous tissue has been regarded as the major source of FGF23. Interestingly, erythroid progenitor cells highly express FGF23 protein and carry the FGF receptor. This implies that erythroid progenitor cells could be a prime target in FGF23 biology. FGF23 is formed as an intact, biologically active protein (iFGF23) and proteolytic cleavage results in the formation of the presumed inactive C-terminal tail of FGF23 (cFGF23). FGF23-knockout or injection of an iFGF23 blocking peptide in mice results in increased erythropoiesis, reduced erythroid cell apoptosis and elevated renal and bone marrow erythropoietin mRNA expression with increased levels of circulating erythropoietin. By competitive inhibition, a relative increase in cFGF23 compared to iFGF23 results in reduced FGF23 receptor signaling and mimics the positive effects of FGF23-knockout or iFGF23 blocking peptide. Injection of recombinant erythropoietin increases FGF23 mRNA expression in the bone marrow with a concomitant increase in circulating FGF23 protein. However, erythropoietin also augments iFGF23 cleavage, thereby decreasing the iFGF23 to cFGF23 ratio. Therefore, the net result of erythropoietin is a reduction of iFGF23 to cFGF23 ratio, which inhibits the effects of iFGF23 on erythropoiesis and erythropoietin production. Elucidation of the EPO-FGF23 signaling pathway and its downstream signaling in hereditary anemias with chronic hemolysis or ineffective erythropoiesis adds to the understanding of the pathophysiology of these diseases and its complications; in addition, it provides promising new targets for treatment downstream of erythropoietin in the signaling cascade.

Original languageEnglish
Article number304
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2019


  • Anemia
  • Erythropoietin
  • FGF23
  • Osteoporosis
  • Red blood cells
  • red blood cells
  • osteoporosis
  • anemia
  • erythropoietin


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