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Detailed knowledge is available about the molecular makeup of the cell cycle clock in dividing cells. However, comparatively little is known about cell cycle regulation during terminal differentiation. Here we describe a primary cell system in which this question can be addressed. Normal avian erythroid progenitors undergo continuous self-renewal in suspension culture in the presence of growth factors and hormones, allowing us to obtain large cell numbers (10(10)-10(11)). By replacing these "self-renewal factors" with erythropoietin and insulin, the cells can be induced to synchronous, terminal differentiation. During the first 72 h, the cells undergo five cell divisions. Thereafter, they arrest in G1 and complete their maturation into RBC without further divisions. Sixteen to 24 h after induction of differentiation, the cell cycle length decreased from about 20 to 12 h. This shortened doubling time was due to a drastic reduction of G1 (from 12 to 5 h), while S- and G2-phase lengths were not affected. At the same time, the differentiating cells underwent an extensive and concerted switch in their gene expression pattern. During the subsequent four cell divisions, the cell volume decreased from about 300 to less than 70 femtoliters, but the rate of protein synthesis normalized to cell volume remained constant. Interestingly, the shortening of G1 was accompanied by a rapid down-regulation of D-type cyclins and their partner, cyclin-dependent kinase type 4 (cdk4), while expression of S- and G2-M-associated cell cycle regulators (cyclin A and cdk1/cdc2) remained high until the cells arrested in G1 72-96 h after differentiation induction. We conclude that concerted reprogramming of progenitor gene expression during erythroid differentiation is accompanied by profoundly altered cell cycle progression involving the loss or alteration of cell size control at the restriction point.


Journal article


Cell Growth Differ

Publication Date





1341 - 1352


Animals, Cell Cycle, Cell Differentiation, Cell Division, Cell Size, Chickens, Cyclin D1, Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4, Cyclin-Dependent Kinases, Cyclins, DNA-Binding Proteins, Down-Regulation, Erythroid Precursor Cells, G1 Phase, Gene Expression, Hemoglobins, Oncogene Proteins, Protein Biosynthesis, Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myb, RNA, Messenger, Receptors, Estrogen, Time Factors, Transcription Factors