Erythrocyte Membrane Damage in Hemolytic Anemias

  • Augusta Brovelli
Part of the Blood Cell Biochemistry book series (BLBI, volume 1)


Molecular defects directly affecting a membrane component can modify the shape of the red cell and reduce its survival capacity; the same effect can result from molecular lesions at the level of a cytoplasmic protein or enzyme. In some diseases where the primary defect does not involve a membrane component, a secondary membrane lesion develops, contributing to or causing red cell death. For instance, in some hemoglobinopathies, a less stable anomalous hemoglobin interacts with the membrane and modifies lipid and proteins; in erythroenzymopenias, such as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency and pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency, the altered structure of a key enzyme involved in glycolysis or the pentose pathway, impairs the ability of red cells to withstand stress conditions, and there are clues that lead us to suspect a membrane lesion secondary to the enzyme deficiency. In this review, membrane processes found in the three above-mentioned groups of diseases will be described: in particular, we will deal with two hemoglobinopathies, thalassemia and sickle-cell anemia; with the enzymopathies glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and pyruvate kinase deficiency; and with the hereditary membrane skeleton diseases spherocytosis, elliptocytosis, and pyropoikilocytosis. A summary of membrane lesions found in each disease will be presented, more detailed reviews concerning each of these topics being available [see Wagner et al. (1985), Hebbel et al. (1985), and Hebbel (1986) for sickle cell anemia; Rachmilewitz et al. (1985) for thalassemia; Palek and Lux (1983), Becker and Lux (1985), Palek (1985) for hereditary defects of membrane skeleton; Beutler (1983), Valentine et al. (1983) for G6PD and PK deficiencies]. Membrane damage associated with an impaired survival capacity of pathological red cells will be compared with membrane properties of senescent normal red cells (see Bartosz, this volume). The general aim of the review is to analyze which membrane lesions in erythrocyte pathology shorten red cell life span, and to find insights into membrane processes that would be worth investigating in those diseases, where indirect evidence suggests the presence of membrane damage. Structural integrity of the membrane allows the erythrocyte to perform its biological role of oxygen transport from the lungs throughout the body. The ability to deform reversibly during flow is crucial to the red cell for performing its function. This property, known as cellular deformability, is determined by membrane material characteristics, cell surface-area-to-volume ratio, and cytoplasmic viscosity, and is strictly related to the red cell survival capacity (Mohandas et al., 1983). Since structure and function of the membrane are highly involved in determining cell deformability (through the maintenance of ion gradients and water distribution, and through the transport of nutrients and catabolites), the life span of a red cell ultimately depends on the integrity of its membrane.


Sickle Cell Hemolytic Anemia Erythrocyte Membrane Pyruvate Kinase G6PD Deficiency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbreviations used in this chapter


glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency;


pyruvate kinase deficiency;


hereditary spherocytosis;


hereditary elliptocytosis;


hereditary pyropoikilocytosis;


irreversibly sickled cells;
















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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augusta Brovelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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