Erythrocyte adhesion is modified by alterations in cellular tonicity and volume

Nancy J. Wandersee, Rowena C. Punzalan, Michael P. Rettig, Michael D. Kennedy, Nicholas M. Pajewski, Richard L. Sabina, J. Paul Scott, Philip S. Low, Cheryl A. Hillery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We tested the hypothesis that dehydration-induced alterations in red blood cell (RBC) membrane organisation or composition contribute to sickle cell adhesion in sickle cell disease (SCD). To examine the role of RBC hydration in adhesion to the subendothelial matrix protein thrombospondin-1 (TSP), normal and sickle RBCs were incubated in buffers of varying tonicity and tested for adhesion to immobilised TSP under flow conditions. Sickle RBCs exhibited a decrease in TSP binding with increasing cell hydration (P < 0.005), suggesting that cellular dehydration may contribute to TSP adhesion. Consistent with this hypothesis, normal RBCs showed an increase in TSP adhesion with increasing dehydration (P < 0.01). Furthermore, increased TSP adhesion of normal RBCs could also be induced by isotonic dehydration using nystatin-sucrose buffers. Finally, TSP adhesion of both sickle RBCs and dehydrated normal RBCs was inhibited by the anionic polysaccharides, chondroitin sulphate A and high molecular weight dextran sulphate, but not by competitors of CD47-, band 3-, or RBC phosphatidylserine-mediated adhesion. More importantly, we found increased adhesion of nystatin-sucrose dehydrated normal mouse RBCs to kidney capillaries following re-infusion in vivo. In summary, these findings demonstrate that changes in hydration can significantly impact adhesion, causing normal erythrocytes to display adhesive properties similar to those of sickle cells and vice versa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-377
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Adhesion
  • Erythrocytes
  • Red cell membrane
  • Sickle cell anaemia


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