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Blood. 2003 Dec 1;102(12):4206-13. Epub 2003 Aug 14.

Distribution of plasma membrane Ca2+ pump activity in normal human red blood cells.

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Department of Physiology, University of Cambridge, Downing St, Cambridge CB2 3EG, United Kingdom.


The plasma membrane calcium pump (PMCA) is the only active Ca2+ transporter in human red blood cells (RBCs). Previous measurements of maximal Ca2+ extrusion rates (Vmax) reported only mean values in the RBC population. Despite early evidence for differences in Ca2+ extrusion capacity among RBCs, the precise Vmax distribution remained unknown. It was important to characterize this distribution to assess the range and modality (uni- or multimodal) of PMCA Vmax variation and the likelihood of RBCs with elevated [Ca2+]i in the circulation participating in physiologic and pathologic processes. We report here the application of a new method to investigate the detailed distribution of PMCA Vmax activity in RBCs. The migrating profile of osmotic lysis curves was used to identify and quantify the fraction of cells that extrude a uniform Ca2+ load at different rates. The results revealed that RBCs from single donors have large variations in PMCA activity that follow a unimodal, broad distribution pattern consistently skewed toward higher Vmax values, suggesting an excess of cells with Vmax higher than the mean value. The method applied may provide a way of evaluating whether the observed variation in PMCA Vmax is related to cell age.

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