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Erythrocytes are anucleated cells devoid of organelles. Expulsion of the nucleus from erythroblasts leads to the formation of reticulocytes, which still contain organelles. The mechanisms responsible for the final removal of organelles from developing erythroid cells are still being elucidated. Mitochondria are the most abundant organelles to be cleared for the completion of erythropoiesis. Macroautophagy, referred to as autophagy, is a regulated catabolic pathway consisting of the engulfment of cytoplasmic cargo by a double membraned-vesicle, the autophagosome, which typically then fuses to lysosomal compartments for the degradation of the sequestered material. Early electron microscopic observations of reticulocytes suggested the autophagic engulfment of mitochondria (mitophagy) as a possible mechanism for mitochondrial clearance in these. Recently, a number of studies have backed this hypothesis with molecular evidence. Indeed, the absence of Nix, which targets mitochondria to autophagosomes, or the deficiency of proteins in the autophagic pathway lead to impaired mitochondrial clearance from developing erythroid cells. Importantly, however, the extent to which the absence of mitophagy affects erythroid development differs depending on the model and gene investigated. This review will therefore focus on comparing the different studies of mitophagy in erythroid development and highlight some of the remaining controversial points.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Cycle

Publication Date





1901 - 1906


Anemia, Animals, Apoptosis, Autophagy, Erythrocytes, Humans, Mitochondria, Reactive Oxygen Species