An analysis of lipoproteins, bile acids, and red cell membranes associated with target cells and spur cells in patients with liver disease

J Clin Invest. 1972 Dec;51(12):3182-92. doi: 10.1172/JCI107145.


Most patients with stable cirrhosis of the alcoholic have "target" red cells; however, a minority have "spur" cells and severe hemolytic anemia. These two syndromes were studied in 27 patients with target cells and 17 patients with spur cells, all of whom had advanced cirrhosis. The cholesterol and phospholipid content of red cell membranes effectively distinguished target cells from spur cells. Target cells alone were rich in lecithin, and both the cholesterol/phospholipid and cholesterol/lecithin mole ratios were greater in spur cells. The cholesterol/phospholipid mole ratio of both types of red cells correlated closely with the free cholesterol saturation of serum lipoproteins, as defined by the amount of free cholesterol relative to phospholipid and protein in these lipoproteins. Lecithin: cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) activity was decreased in most patients with target cells and spur cells; however, the relationship between this activity and the lipid abnormalities observed was weak. Serum bile acid levels also correlated poorly with serum and cell lipids. However, in patients with target cells the amount of cholic and deoxycholic acids in serum was approximately equal to the amount of chenodeoxycholic acid, whereas in patients with spur cells chenodeoxycholic acid (the precursor of lithocholic acid) predominated.

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / blood*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / analysis*
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Erythrocytes, Abnormal / enzymology
  • Erythrocytes, Abnormal / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipoproteins / analysis
  • Lipoproteins / blood*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / enzymology
  • Phosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Syndrome


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Blood Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phospholipids
  • Cholesterol
  • Acetyltransferases