Sickle cell acute chest syndrome: pathogenesis and rationale for treatment.Blood 1999; 94(5):1555-60Blood
Acute chest syndrome (ACS) is a leading cause of death in sickle cell disease (SCD). Our previous work showed that hypoxia enhances the ability of sickle erythrocytes to adhere to human microvessel endothelium via interaction between very late activation antigen-4 (VLA4) expressed on sickle erythrocytes and the endothelial adhesion molecule vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). Additionally, hypoxia has been shown to decrease the production of nitric oxide (NO) which inhibits VCAM-1 upregulation. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that during ACS, the rapidly progressive clinical course that can occur is caused by initial hypoxia-induced pulmonary endothelial VCAM-1 upregulation that is not counterbalanced by production of cytoprotective mediators, including NO, resulting in intrapulmonary adhesion. We assessed plasma NO metabolites and soluble VCAM-1 in 36 patients with SCD and 23 age-matched controls. Patients with SCD were evaluated at baseline (n = 36), in vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC; n = 12), and during ACS (n = 7). We observed marked upregulation of VCAM-1 during ACS (1,290 +/- 451 ng per mL; mean +/- 1 SD) with values significantly higher than controls (P <.0001) or patients either in steady state or VOC (P <. 01). NO metabolites were concomitantly decreased during ACS (9.2 +/- 1.5 nmol/mL) with values lower than controls (22.2 +/- 5.5), patients during steady state (21.4 +/- 5.5), or VOC (14.2 +/- 1.2) (P <.0001). Additionally, the ratio of soluble VCAM-1 to NO metabolites during ACS (132.9 +/- 46.5) was significantly higher when compared with controls (P <.0001) or patients either in steady state or VOC (P <.0001). Although hypoxia enhanced in vitro sickle erythrocyte-pulmonary microvessel adhesion, NO donors inhibited this process with concomitant inhibition of VCAM-1. We suggest that in ACS there is pathologic over expression of endothelial VCAM-1. Our investigations also provide a rationale for the therapeutic use in ACS of cytoprotective modulators including NO and dexamethasone, which potentially exert their efficacy by an inhibitory effect on VCAM-1 and concomitant inhibition of sickle erythrocyte-endothelial adhesion.