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Baillieres Clin Haematol. 1995 Sep;8(3):441-59.

Morphology, biology and biochemistry of cobalamin- and folate-deficient bone marrow cells.

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  • 1Division of Pathology Sciences, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK.


B12- or folate-deficient haemopoietic cells display abnormalities in their morphology under both the light and electron microscope, their cell kinetics and their capacity to synthesize protein. These abnormalities are maximal in the last dividing cell class and in non-dividing cells, presumably because B12 and folate uptake is largely confined to the most immature erythroid and granulocyte precursors. In patients with moderate or severe anaemia due to B12 or folate deficiency, erythropoiesis is markedly ineffective; intramedullary cell death occurs mainly in the early and late polychromatic megaloblasts. The damaged erythroblasts appear to display neoantigens or normally-hidden antigens at their cell surface and these react with naturally occurring antibodies. The opsonised erythroblasts are then recognised by macrophages via their IgG-Fc receptors and phagocytosed. Marrow cells from B12- or folate-deficient patients show a subnormal suppression of 3H-thymidine incorporation after pre-incubation with nonradioactive deoxyuridine, suggesting that such cells suffer from an impairment of the 5,10-methylene-THF-dependent methylation of deoxyuridylate to thymidylate. However, the exact mechanism by which B12 deficiency causes a reduced supply of this folate coenzyme is uncertain. Methylcobalamin is required for the 5-methyl-THF-dependent methylation of homocysteine to methionine and an impairment of this reaction will result in both reduced conversion of 5-methyl-THF to THF and in reduced methionine synthesis. There is controversy as to whether the reduced supply of THF or methionine is responsible for the reduced availability of 5,10-methylene-THF. Currently, the balance of evidence favours the hypothesis that the reduced supply of methionine leads to reduced synthesis of formyl-THF and, eventually, of 5,10-methylene-THF. Despite the evidence for impaired thymidylate synthesis, the duration of the S phase of megaloblasts appears to be normal or only modestly increased. Data on rates of DNA strand elongation are inconsistent, with subnormal rates reported in PHA-stimulated B12- or folate-deficient lymphocytes and normal rates in B12- or folate-deficient bone marrow cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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