Red blood cell metabolism in Down syndrome: hints on metabolic derangements in aging

Blood Adv. 2017 Dec 21;1(27):2776-2780. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2017011957. eCollection 2017 Dec 26.


Red blood cells (RBCs) are the most abundant cell in the human body. During their ∼120-day life span in the circulatory system, RBCs release oxygen to all human tissues while being exposed to tissue metabolic activity. Owing to the relative simplicity of their intrinsic metabolism and the abundance of metabolite transporters in RBC membranes, the metabolism of mature erythrocytes indirectly mirrors systemic metabolic homeostasis and its alterations as a function of physiological factors, such as aging. Trisomy 21 (T21), the etiological factor of Down syndrome (DS), has been shown to cause chronic autoinflammation, promoting alterations in RBC life span, size (macrocytosis), and redox homeostasis. Here, we provide the first mass spectrometry-based relative and absolute quantitative metabolomic description of human RBCs from volunteer disomic and trisomic donors (n = 97). The results indicate a widespread deregulation of T21 RBC metabolism, including significant intracellular accumulation of lactate, amino acids (except methionine), purine catabolites, glutathione metabolites, carboxylic acids, bile acids (especially conjugated ones), and acyl-conjugated carnitines. These changes may underlie some of the well-established comorbidities in DS. Finally, we identify sex- and/or T21-specific metabolic signatures of aging.