Red blood cell extrudes nucleus and mitochondria against oxidative stress

IUBMB Life. 2011 Jul;63(7):560-5. doi: 10.1002/iub.490.


Mammal red blood cells (erythrocytes) contain neither nucleus nor mitochondria. Traditional theory suggests that the presence of a nucleus would prevent big nucleated erythrocytes to squeeze through these small capillaries. However, nucleus is too small to hinder erythrocyte deformation. And, there is no sound reason to abandon mitochondria for the living cells. Here, we found that mammal erythrocyte reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels kept stable under diabetes, ischemia reperfusion, and malaria conditions or in vitro sugar/heme treatments, whereas bird erythrocyte ROS levels increased dramatically in these circumstances. Nuclear and mitochondrial extrusion may help mammal erythrocytes to better adapt to high-sugar and high-heme conditions by limiting ROS generation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Chickens
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / metabolism
  • Malaria / physiopathology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Oxygen