1Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore. 2Department of Pluripotent Stem Cell Biology, Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan. 3Department of Microscopic and Developmental Anatomy, Tokyo Women’s Medical University, Tokyo, Japan. 4International Research Center for Medical Sciences, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan.
Adult erythropoiesis entails a series of well-coordinated events that produce mature red blood cells. One of such events is the mitochondria clearance that occurs cell-autonomously via autophagy-dependent mechanisms. Interestingly, recent studies have shown mitochondria transfer activities between various cell types. In the context of erythropoiesis, macrophages are known to interact closely with the early stages of erythroblasts to provide a specialized niche, termed erythroblastic islands (EBI). However, whether mitochondria transfer can occur in the EBI niche has not been explored. Here, we report that mitochondria transfer in the EBI niche occurs in vivo. We observed mitochondria transfer activities from the early stages of erythroblasts to macrophages in the reconstituted in vitro murine EBI via different modes, including tunnelling nanotubes (TNT). Moreover, we demonstrated that Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASp) in macrophages mediates TNT formation and mitochondria transfer via the modulation of F-actin filamentation, thus promoting mitochondria clearance from erythroid cells, to potentially enhance their differentiation. Taken together, our findings provide novel insight into the mitochondria clearance machineries that mediate erythroid maturation.