Genetic characteristics of blood donors may impact the storability of blood products. Despite higher basal stress, red blood cells (RBCs) from eligible donors that are heterozygous for beta-thalassemia traits (βThal+) possess a differential nitrogen-related metabolism, and cope better with storage stress compared to the control. Nevertheless, not much is known about how storage impacts the proteome of membrane and extracellular vesicles (EVs) in βThal+. For this purpose, RBC units from twelve βThal+ donors were studied through proteomics, immunoblotting, electron microscopy, and functional ELISA assays, versus units from sex- and aged-matched controls. βThal+ RBCs exhibited less irreversible shape modifications. Their membrane proteome was characterized by different levels of structural, lipid raft, transport, chaperoning, redox, and enzyme components. The most prominent findings include the upregulation of myosin proteoforms, arginase-1, heat shock proteins, and protein kinases, but the downregulation of nitrogen-related transporters. The unique membrane proteome was also mirrored, in part, to that of βThal+ EVs. Network analysis revealed interesting connections of membrane vesiculation with storage and stress hemolysis, along with proteome control modulators of the RBC membrane. Our findings, which are in line with the mild but consistent oxidative stress these cells experience in vivo, provide insight into the physiology and aging of stored βThal+ RBCs.
Keywords: RBC membrane proteome; RBC shape modifications; RBC storage lesion; beta thalassemia trait donors; donor variation effect; extracellular vesicles proteome; network analysis.