Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a congenital pure red blood cell aplasia that often requires lifelong transfusional therapy. Autosomal dominant and recessive inheritance have both been reported, suggesting genetic heterogeneity, but most cases occur sporadically. The origin of impaired erythropoiesis is unknown. Several erythroid growth factors have been thought to have a role in the pathogenesis of DBA. However, there is neither molecular nor clinical evidence for the involvement of erythropoietin (EPO), its receptor, stem cell factor (SCF), or interleukin (IL)-3, even if the addition of SCF to IL-3 and EPO does significantly increase the growth of erythroid progenitors in in vitro cultures in most patients. In this work we evaluated the possible role of another early-acting erythroid growth factor, IL-9. We found that the addition of IL-9 to SCF, IL-3, and EPO further increases burst-forming unit-erythroid growth in in vitro cultures of those DBA patients who responded to SCF. To investigate the role of the IL-9 gene, we evaluated its segregation in 22 families with members who have DBA by using a polymorphic microsatellite located within its intron 4. Lod score analysis ruled out any statistically significant involvement of the IL-9 gene in the pathogenesis of DBA. Moreover, linkage analysis with 11 highly polymorphic markers spanning 5q31.1-q33.2 excluded this region, which is included in the major cluster of genes active in hematopoiesis of the human genome.
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