Favism: erythrocyte metabolism during haemolysis and reticulocytosis

Br J Haematol. 1979 Sep;43(1):39-48. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.1979.tb03717.x.


The reduced activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (D-glucose-6-phosphate; NADP+ 1-oxidoreductase; G6PF) in Mediterranean erythrocytes explains the precarious equilibrium of the hexose monophosphate pathway (HMP) and the susceptibility of these cells to haemolytic agents. G6PD-deficient erythrocytes, in steady-state conditions, have a low NADPH/NADP+ ratio, thus allowing the HMP to operate at its maximal intracellular rate and to compensate the intrinsic erythrocyte enzyme deficiency. Studies started soon after accidental intake of fava beans by sensitive G6PD-deficient subjects demonstrate a decrease of both NADPH/NADP+ ratio and reduced glutathione. The metabolic effects induced by fava beans may be attributed to oxidative stress probably associated with an inhibitor effect of some unknown metabolite on the HMP. The availability of erythrocytes from subjects recovering from haemolysis with high reticulocyte counts and increased G6PD activity, provides new information on the rate of synthesis as well as on the in vivo decay of the mutant enzyme. Correlation of G6PD activity to reticulocyte count and extrapolation to an ideally homogenous population of reticulocytes reveal that the mutant enzyme is synthesized at a nearly normal rate. Furthermore, the present correlation allows an estimate of the in vivo half-life of Mediterranean G6PD. The rate of decline of about 8 d observed in this study well correlates to the intracellular metabolic aspects of G6PD Mediterranean erythrocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Favism / blood*
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency / blood
  • Glutathione / blood
  • Hemolysis*
  • Hexosephosphates / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • NADP / blood
  • Reticulocytes*


  • Hexosephosphates
  • NADP
  • Glutathione