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Transfusion. 1990 Oct;30(8):722-7.

Abnormal membrane physical properties of red cells in McLeod syndrome.

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  • 1Cardeza Foundation for Hematologic Research, Department of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Blood Bank, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


McLeod red cells (RBCs) lack Kx antigens and have weak expression of the Kell antigens. Individuals who carry the McLeod phenotype have acanthocytic RBCs and a compensated hemolytic state. To elucidate the role of the protein on which the Kx antigens reside in maintaining membrane deformability, the rheologic properties of McLeod RBCs were determined by ektacytometry. RBCs were obtained from normal individuals and from four patients with McLeod syndrome. Osmotic gradient deformability profiles of McLeod RBCs showed decreased whole cell deformability. Resealed ghosts from McLeod RBCs also showed decreased deformability, partly because of the decreased cell surface area and partly because of an intrinsic membrane stiffness in this syndrome. For the measurement of membrane mechanical stability, resealed ghosts were subjected to constant high shear stress in the ektacytomer, and deformability was recorded continuously as the deformable ghosts fragmented into rigid spherical vesicles. Membranes from McLeod RBCs showed a noticeable increase in mechanical stability. Acquired causes of acanthocytosis, such as liver disease, did not cause the rheologic abnormalities observed in McLeod cells. Other abnormalities noted in McLeod RBCs were decreased RBC potassium content and an increased number of dense RBCs, as determined by centrifugation on a discontinuous density gradient. The data indicate that McLeod RBCs are rigid and have decreased surface area and that their membranes are intrinsically rigid with increased mechanical stability. These abnormalities may account for the reduced RBC survival observed in McLeod syndrome. The protein that carries the Kx surface antigen seems to be required for the maintenance of the normal physical function of RBC skeletal proteins.

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