Erythropoiesis pp 133-152 | Cite as

Analyzing the Formation, Morphology, and Integrity of Erythroblastic Islands

  • Jia Hao Yeo
  • Matthew P. Cosgriff
  • Stuart T. Fraser
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1698)


The bone marrow is the primary site of erythropoiesis in healthy adult mammals. In the bone marrow, erythroid cells mature within specialized microenvironments termed erythroblastic islands (EBIs). EBIs are multi-cellular clusters comprised of a central macrophage surrounded by red blood cell (erythroid) progenitors. It has been proposed that the central macrophage functions as a “nurse-cell” providing iron, cytokines, and growth factors for the developing erythroid cells. The central macrophage also engulfs and destroys extruded erythroid nuclei. EBIs have recently been shown to play clinically important roles during human hematological disease. The molecular mechanisms regulating this hematopoietic niche are largely unknown. In this chapter, we detail protocols to study isolated EBIs using multiple microscopy platforms. Adhesion molecules regulate cell-cell interactions within the EBI and maintain the integrity of the niche. To improve our understanding of the molecular regulation of erythroid cells in EBIs, we have developed protocols for immuno-gold labeling of erythroid surface antigens to combine with scanning electron microscopy. These protocols have allowed imaging of EBIs at the nanometer scale, offering novel insights into the processes regulating red blood cell production.

Key words

Erythroblastic islands Erythropoiesis Immuno-gold labeling Bone marrow hematopoietic niche Electron microscopy 



The authors acknowledge the support received from the Bosch Institute Advanced Microscopy Facility, and the expert help of Dr. Louise Cole. The authors also acknowledge the facilities and the scientific and technical assistance of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility at the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the University of Sydney. J.H.Y. is supported by The Mrs. Ann & Professor NWG Macintosh PhD Scholarship. This work was supported by funding from the Sydney Medical School New Staff Grant (S.T.F.), The Bosch Institute Translational Grant-in-Aid, the NWG Macintosh Grant 2015 (J.H.Y.) and the NWG Macintosh Grant 2016 (M.P.C). The authors would also like to thank the members of the Laboratory of Blood Cell Development and Andrology Research Group (University of Sydney) for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jia Hao Yeo
    • 1
  • Matthew P. Cosgriff
    • 1
  • Stuart T. Fraser
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Discipline of Anatomy and Histology, School of Medical Sciences, Bosch InstituteUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical SciencesUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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