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We used an N-ethyl-N-nitrosurea-based forward genetic screen in mice to identify new genes and alleles that regulate erythropoiesis. Here, we describe a mouse line expressing an activated form of the K-Cl cotransporter Slc12a4 (Kcc1), which results in a semidominant microcytosis of red cells. A missense mutation from methionine to lysine in the cytoplasmic tail of Kcc1 impairs phosphorylation of adjacent threonines required for inhibiting cotransporter activity. We bred Kcc1M935K mutant mice with a humanized mouse model of sickle cell disease to directly explore the relevance of the reported increase in KCC activity in disease pathogenesis. We show that a single mutant allele of Kcc1 induces widespread sickling and tissue damage, leading to premature death. This mouse model reveals important new insights into the regulation of K-Cl cotransporters and provides in vivo evidence that increased KCC activity worsened end-organ damage and diminished survival in sickle cell disease.
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