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Br J Haematol. 2008 May;141(3):367-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2008.07091.x. Epub 2008 Mar 12.

Disorders of red cell membrane.

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Red Cell Physiology Laboratory, New York Blood Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Studies during the last three decades have enabled the development of detailed molecular insights into the structural basis of altered function in various inherited red cell membrane disorders. This review highlights our current understanding of molecular and mechanistic insights into various inherited red cell membrane disorders involving either altered membrane structural organization (hereditary spherocytosis, hereditary elliptocytosis and hereditary ovalocytosis) or altered membrane transport function (hereditary stomatocytosis). The molecular basis for the vast majority of cases of hereditary spherocytosis, elliptocytosis and ovalocytosis have been fully defined while little progress has been made in defining the molecular basis for hereditary stomatocytosis. Mutations in a number of distinct genes account for hereditary spherocytosis and elliptocytosis, while a single genetic defect accounts for all cases of hereditary ovalocytosis. Based on these molecular insights, a comprehensive understanding of the structural basis for altered membrane function has been developed. Loss of vertical linkage between membrane skeleton and lipid bilayer leads to membrane loss in hereditary spherocytosis, while weakening of lateral linkages between skeletal proteins leads to membrane fragmentation and surface area loss in hereditary elliptocytosis. Importantly, the severity of anaemia in both these disorders is directly related to extent of membrane surface area loss. Splenectomy results in amelioration of anaemia.

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