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Eur J Haematol. 2002 Sep;69(3):135-44.

Relationship between the clinical manifestations of sickle cell disease and the expression of adhesion molecules on white blood cells.

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Departments of Haematology, St. Thomas's Hospital, London, UK.



The severity of sickle cell disease (SCD) increases with leukocyte count. The biological basis could be that leukocyte adherence to vascular endothelium mediated by adhesion molecules (AMs) facilitates vaso-occlusion, the basic pathological process in SCD.


To find out if there is a relationship between expression of AMs by leukocytes and the clinical manifestations of SCD.


Flow cytometry was used to study the relationship between leukocyte AM expression and disease manifestations in 100 patients with homozygous (HbSS) sickle cell disease and 34 genotype HbAA controls. The effect of hydroxyurea therapy on AM expression was also examined. We excluded HbSS patients with any other disease, pregnancy in the previous 3 months, or Haemogloben F (HbF) > or = 10%.


Patients with complications of SCD showed high expression of alphaMbeta integrin by the neutrophils; and l-selectin by lymphocytes and neutrophils (P < 0.03). CD18 was highly expressed by neutrophils in patients with sickle nephropathy (P = 0.018), and l-selectin by lymphocytes in those with stroke (P = 0.03). Monocyte l-selectin increased in sickle cell crisis relative to steady state (P = 0.04). Expression of alphaLbeta2 integrin by neutrophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes decreased within a month of hydroxyurea therapy (P < 0.05), with symptomatic improvement in the patients and no more than 3.3% rise in HbF level.


The findings suggest that in SCD (1): High steady-state expression of alphaMbeta2 integrin and l-selectin by leukocytes predisposes to severe manifestations. (2) Increased leukocyte AM expression above steady-state levels could be important in the genesis of crisis. (3) The early symptomatic improvement that follows hydroxyurea therapy is mediated via mechanisms independent of increased HbF, and may involve reduced AM expression in leukocytes. (4) Other treatment modalities that reduce leukocyte AM expression might also confer clinical benefit.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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