Inhibition of complement-mediated haemolysis in paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria by heparin or low-molecular weight heparin

Br J Haematol. 2000 Jun;109(4):875-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.2000.02125.x.


Complement (C')-mediated haemolysis in paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) is mainly due to the deficiency of glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored membrane proteins with C'-regulatory activities CD55 and CD59 in PNH-affected red blood cells (RBCs). Hydrophobic insertion of C5b-7 to RBC membranes, initiating the formation of a membrane attack complex, readily results in lysis of PNH RBCs due to the deficiency of CD59. We studied the significance of the electrostatic interactions between C5b-6 and RBC membranes preceding the insertion of C5b-7. In vitro, C'-mediated lysis of PNH RBCs (assessed by sucrose haemolytic assay) was inhibited by heparin, low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) or protamine, indicating the significance of the electrostatic interactions between C' components and RBC membranes in the process of C'-mediated haemolysis. Neuraminidase-treated PNH RBCs became resistant to C' activation, suggesting that the sialic acid moieties on RBC membranes are involved in the interactions of RBC with C' components. By using biotin-labelled C7, we demonstrated that LMWH as well as heparin inhibited the insertion of C5b-7 to RBCs, although they did not inhibit the incorporation of C7 into membrane-associated C5b-6. Neither heparin nor LMWH could inhibit the procoagulant alteration of PNH RBC membranes induced by C' activation even at concentrations which inhibited the haemolysis completely. Because LMWH inhibited the C'-mediated lysis of PNH RBCs in vitro at the range which induced a limited prolongation of activated partial thromboplastin time of normal plasma, we consider that LMWH may be useful for both the inhibition of haemolysis and the prevention of thrombosis, which often follow a haemolytic attack in PNH.

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Complement Activation
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex / metabolism
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Hemoglobinuria, Paroxysmal / drug therapy*
  • Hemoglobinuria, Paroxysmal / immunology
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use
  • Humans


  • Anticoagulants
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Heparin