Hydroxyurea therapy decreases the in vitro adhesion of sickle erythrocytes to thrombospondin and laminin

Br J Haematol. 2000 May;109(2):322-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.2000.02040.x.


The adhesion of sickle erythrocytes to the vascular endothelium and subendothelial matrix probably contributes to the pathogenesis of vaso-occlusive disease. The chemotherapeutic agent hydroxyurea (HU) decreases the frequency of vaso-occlusive crises in patients with sickle cell disease. However, the exact mechanism(s) of HU's effect on vaso-occlusive crises is not fully understood. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of HU therapy on the adhesion of sickle erythrocytes to the subendothelial matrix proteins thrombospondin (TSP) and laminin under conditions of flow in vitro. Erythrocytes from patients with severe sickle cell disease on HU therapy (n = 14) had significantly less adhesion to TSP (687 +/- 92 erythrocytes/mm2, mean +/- SE) than untreated patients with severe disease (n = 18, 1176 +/- 117 erythrocytes/mm2, P = 0.003). In addition, there was significantly less adhesion of erythrocytes to immobilized laminin in patients treated with HU (1695 +/- 293 erythrocytes/mm2) than in the untreated patients (2590 +/- 296 erythrocytes/mm2, P = 0.02). Erythrocytes from an additional nine patients with severe sickle cell disease were studied both before and after initiation of HU therapy. Erythrocytes from these patients became less adhesive to both TSP (P = 0.001) and laminin (P = 0.01), a change that was sustained in most patients throughout the duration of the study (2 months to > 12 months). This study suggests that HU modulates the adhesive phenotype of sickle erythrocytes, an effect that may be in addition to, or independent of, other known effects of HU, such as an increase in fetal haemoglobin level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antisickling Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Erythrocytes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / pharmacology*
  • Laminin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Sickle Cell Trait / metabolism
  • Sickle Cell Trait / pathology*
  • Thrombospondins / metabolism*


  • Antisickling Agents
  • Laminin
  • Thrombospondins
  • Hydroxyurea