Sickling of nucleated erythroid precursors from patients with sickle cell anemia.Exp Hematol. 1998 Apr; 26(4):314-9.EH
The pathophysiology of sickle cell anemia is primarily explained in terms of the oxygen-dependent polymerization of sickle hemoglobin (HbS) followed by sickling of erythrocytes. Since the rate and extent of HbS polymerization depend on its intracellular concentration, it has been generally assumed that sickling occurs primarily in mature erythrocytes with their high intracellular hemoglobin concentration. In the present study, we investigated the propensity of nucleated erythroid precursors to undergo sickling; both cultured and fresh marrow-derived erythroid precursors from patients with homozygous sickle cell anemia were studied. The results revealed that upon deoxygenation cultured erythroblasts underwent characteristic morphological deformation in the form of fine, fragile, elongated spicules. Ultrastructural analysis demonstrated highly organized and tightly aligned hemoglobin fibers in the protruded regions. Bone marrow cells examined under partial or complete deoxygenated conditions displayed similar morphological changes. When cultured SS erythroid precursors were exposed to hydroxyurea or butyrate, drugs that may increase fetal hemoglobin (HbF) and inhibit intracellular polymerization, a significant decrease was observed in the propensity of these precursors to undergo sickling, accompanied by a three- to fivefold increase in HbF. These results suggest that, in addition to mature erythrocytes, nucleated erythroid precursors in the bone marrow have the capacity to undergo characteristic sickling as a result of HbS polymerization and may be involved in several aspects of the pathophysiology of sickle cell anemia. Treatment with HbF-stimulating drugs may benefit patients with this disease by inhibiting polymerization-induced sickling of erythroid precursors in the marrow as well as mature erythrocytes in the peripheral blood.