Regulation of Active ICAM-4 on Normal and Sickle Cell Disease RBCs via AKAPs Is Revealed by AFM

Biophys J. 2017 Jan 10;112(1):143-152. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2016.11.3204.


Human healthy (wild-type (WT)) and homozygous sickle (SS) red blood cells (RBCs) express a large number of surface receptors that mediate cell adhesion between RBCs, and between RBCs and white blood cells, platelets, and the endothelium. In sickle cell disease (SCD), abnormal adhesion of RBCs to endothelial cells is mediated by the intercellular adhesion molecule-4 (ICAM-4), which appears on the RBC membrane and binds to the endothelial αvβ3 integrin. This is a key factor in the initiation of vaso-occlusive episodes, the hallmark of SCD. A better understanding of the mechanisms that control RBC adhesion to endothelium may lead to novel approaches to both prevention and treatment of vaso-occlusive episodes in SCD. One important mechanism of ICAM-4 activation occurs via the cyclic adenosine monophosphate-protein kinase A (cAMP-PKA)-dependent signaling pathway. Here, we employed an in vitro technique called single-molecule force spectroscopy to study the effect of modulation of the cAMP-PKA-dependent pathway on ICAM-4 receptor activation. We quantified the frequency of active ICAM-4 receptors on WT-RBC and SS-RBC membranes, as well as the median unbinding force between ICAM-4 and αvβ3. We showed that the collective frequency of unbinding events in WT-RBCs is not significantly different from that of SS-RBCs. This result was confirmed by confocal microscopy experiments. In addition, we showed that incubation of normal RBCs and SS-RBCs with epinephrine, a catecholamine that binds to the β-adrenergic receptor and activates the cAMP-PKA-dependent pathway, caused a significant increase in the frequency of active ICAM-4 receptors in both normal RBCs and SS-RBCs. However, the unbinding force between ICAM-4 and the corresponding ligand αvβ3 remained the same. Furthermore, we demonstrated that forskolin, an adenylyl cyclase activator, significantly increased the frequency of ICAM-4 receptors in WT-RBCs and SS-RBCs, confirming that the activation of ICAM-4 is regulated by the cAMP-PKA pathway. Finally, we showed that A-kinase anchoring proteins play an essential role in ICAM-4 activation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / metabolism*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Integrin alphaVbeta3 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • ICAM4 protein, human
  • Integrin alphaVbeta3
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases