Decrease of very late activation antigen-4 and CD36 on reticulocytes in sickle cell patients treated with hydroxyurea.Blood. 1997 Apr 01; 89(7):2554-9.Blood
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is characterized by repeated vaso-occlusive events, which result in substantial morbidity. Abnormal adhesion of sickle red blood cells (RBC) to the vascular endothelium is postulated to play a role in the pathogenesis of vaso-occlusion. Two adhesion receptors, very late activation antigen-4 (VLA-4) and CD36, are found in unusually high numbers on sickle cell reticulocytes and do mediate adhesion of sickle RBC to endothelium. Hydroxyurea (HU) therapy results in fewer vaso-occlusive episodes, and we postulated that HU-related modulation of VLA-4 and CD36 receptors may contribute to its clinical benefit. Using flow cytometry, eight patients were followed from the onset of HU treatment through a mean treatment length of 200 +/- 49 days. Mean corpuscular volume and percent fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) increased from 87% +/- 6% to 98% +/- 9% and 6.6% +/- 3.9% to 12.7% +/- 5.6%, respectively. The percentage of reticulocytes expressing VLA-4 decreased from 29.0% +/- 5.9% to 14.9% +/- 2.3% (P = .0003). Two thirds of the total decrease in VLA-4 expression occurred after 10 weeks of HU and plateaued by 20 weeks. Changes in VLA-4 expression occurred before substantial increases in Hb F. The percentage of reticulocytes expressing CD36 decreased from 55.3% +/- 6.4% to 42.6% (P = .0046). Changes in adhesion receptor expression were not caused by a decrease in reticulocytosis with HU therapy. This report is the first to associate a decrease in adhesion receptor expression with a therapy known to reduce the clinical severity of SCD.