Red blood cells as modulators of T cell growth and survival

Curr Pharm Des. 2004;10(2):191-201. doi: 10.2174/1381612043453432.


T cell homeostasis is largely controlled by a balance between cell death and survival and anomalies in either process account for a number of diseases linked to excessive or faulty T cell growth. Yet, the influence that cells outside the immunological system have on these processes has only recently received attention. Accumulated evidence indicate that homeostasis of the CD4+ and CD8+ T cell pools is highly dynamic and regulated by signals delivered by cells and molecules present in the different internal microenvironments. The major function of red blood cells (RBC) is generally considered to be oxygen and carbon dioxide transport. In recent years, however, RBC have been implicated in the regulation of basic physiological processes, from vascular contraction and platelet aggregation to T cell growth and survival. Regulation of T cell survival by RBC may influence the response of selected subsets of T cells to internal or external stimuli and may help explaining the immunomodulatory activities of red blood cells. By interfering in the balance between death and survival RBC become potential tools that can be manipulated to improve or reverse pathological situations characterized by anomalies in the control of T cell growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Transfusion
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • Erythrocytes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / toxicity
  • Monocytes / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Iron