On the diagnosis of erythrocyte enzyme defects in the presence of high reticulocyte counts

Br J Haematol. 1989 Jul;72(3):445-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.1989.tb07730.x.


The separation of red blood cells into reticulocytes and young and old erythrocytes enables investigations of fractions with different contents of reticulocytes. Activities of hexokinase, glucose phosphate isomerase, phosphofructokinase, pyruvate kinase and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase showed a linear relationship to reticulocyte counts. The dependence of these enzyme activities on the age of the red blood cells exhibited a strong decline from the reticulocyte to the young erythrocyte stage followed by only little further loss of activity, thus leading to a biphasic decay of enzyme activities. By linear regression analysis enzyme activities in erythrocytes (AE) and reticulocytes (AR) could be evaluated. The activity of a given enzyme in the reticulocyte exceeded that of the erythrocyte; the quotient AR/AE represents the decline of enzyme activity from the reticulocyte to the erythrocyte stage. This value AR/AE is 16.7 for pyruvate kinase and 9.4 for hexokinase and thus considerably higher than that for the other enzymes investigated (glucose phosphate isomerase: 2.9, phosphofructokinase: 4.3, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase: 4.5). In patients suffering from erythrocyte enzymopathies, the AR/AE for pyruvate kinase was 16.2 and thus almost identical to the normal enzyme. Calibration curves where the enzyme activity is plotted versus the fraction of reticulocytes enable the determination of normal activity of a given erythrocyte enzyme depending on the content of reticulocytes in red blood cell suspensions. Thus an unambiguous diagnosis of enzyme defects irrespective of reticulocyte counts becomes possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Erythrocyte Aging
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology*
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate Isomerase / blood*
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase / blood
  • Hexokinase / blood
  • Humans
  • Phosphofructokinase-1 / blood
  • Pyruvate Kinase / blood
  • Reticulocytes / enzymology
  • Serologic Tests


  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Hexokinase
  • Phosphofructokinase-1
  • Pyruvate Kinase
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate Isomerase