Compartmentalization of sickle-cell calcium in endocytic inside-out vesicles

Nature. 1985 Jun 13-19;315(6020):586-9. doi: 10.1038/315586a0.


Much recent interest in the mechanism of dehydration of the dense subpopulation of sickle-cell anaemia (SS) red cells, including the 'irreversibly sickled cells' (ISCs), stems from the view that these relatively rigid cells have a major role in the two main clinical features of the disease, namely haemolytic anaemia and microvascular occlusion. The discovery that SS red cells have an elevated calcium content and accumulate Ca2+ during deoxygenation-induced sickling suggested a working hypothesis of wide appeal for the mechanism of cell dehydration: retained calcium would activate the red cell Ca2+-sensitive K+ channels, causing progressive net loss of KCl and water. However, retained calcium, which seemed as weakly bound to cytoplasmic buffers as in normal red cells, failed to show any measurable activation of K+ channels or Ca2+ pumps in metabolically normal SS cells, despite the apparent functional normality or near-normality of these transport systems. We now offer a possible explanation for this failure. We show that, contrary to the traditional views, SS cells, and to a lesser extent normal human red cells, possess intracellular vesicles with ATP-dependent Ca2+-accumulating capacity, and that nearly all the measurable calcium of fresh SS cells is contained within such vesicles, probably in the form of precipitates with inorganic or organic phosphates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / blood
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / blood*
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Endocytosis*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Freezing
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Reference Values


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Calcium