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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 May;86(9):3184-8.

Differentiation-dependent expression of phosphatidylserine in mammalian plasma membranes: quantitative assessment of outer-leaflet lipid by prothrombinase complex formation.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is asymmetrically distributed in mammalian cell membranes, being preferentially localized in the inner leaflet. Some studies have suggested that a disturbance in the normal asymmetric distribution of PS--e.g., PS exposure in the outer leaflet of the cell membrane, which can occur upon platelet activation as well as in certain pathologic red cells--serves as a potent procoagulant surface and as a signal for triggering their recognition by macrophages. These studies suggest that the regulation of PS distribution in cell membranes may be critical in controlling coagulation and in determining the survival of pathologic cells in the circulation. In this paper we describe a sensitive technique, based on PS-dependent prothrombinase complex activity, for assessing the amount of PS on the external leaflet of intact viable cells. Our results indicate that tumorigenic, undifferentiated murine erythroleukemic cells express 7- to 8-fold more PS in their outer leaflet than do their differentiated, nontumorigenic counterparts. Increased expression of PS in the tumorigenic cells directly correlated with their ability to be recognized and bound by macrophages.

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