Physiological Ageing of Red Blood Cells and Changes in Membrane Carbohydrates

Biomedicine. 1979 Oct;30(4):194-9.


Evidence is presented to indicate a generalized role for the terminal sialic acid residues of circulating erythrocytes. After reinjection into their donors, neuraminidase-treated human, rabbit, rat and dog erythrocytes were promptly removed from the circulation : intect erythrocytes, previously incubated under the same conditions but without neuraminidase, were removed after a significantly longer period. The neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes were cleared by the liver and in a little part by the spleen. Old and young human, rabbit, rat erythrocytes contained different quantities of stromal sialic acid, significantly lowered on the old cells. But the half-life of old intact rabbit erythrocytes is sigificantly shorter than that of neuraminidase-treated young erythrocytes with a similar minidase-treated young erythrocytes with a similar sialic acid content. Indeed sialic acid is not the only carbohydrate component of the membrane that is decreased during erythrocyte ageing, the others membranous sugars are decreased too. Theses changes in the carbohydrate moity could have a role in the clearance of the erythrocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates / blood
  • Erythrocyte Aging* / drug effects
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / analysis
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Neuraminidase / pharmacology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Sialic Acids / physiology*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Sialic Acids
  • Neuraminidase