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Transfus Clin Biol. 2008 Feb-Mar;15(1-2):39-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tracli.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 Jun 2.

Erythroid adhesion molecules in sickle cell disease: effect of hydroxyurea.

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Inserm U665, 6, rue Alexandre-Cabanel, 75015 Paris, France.


In sickle cell disease, the complex scenario of vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) typical of this disease is clearly multifactorial and not fully understood. Cell-cell and cell-cell matrix interactions mediated by adhesive molecules present on blood cells and endothelial cells (ECs) are thought to play an important role. Early studies have shown that sickle red blood cells (RBCs) are abnormally adherent to ECs and some of the molecules involved in these interactions have been identified, such as the alpha4beta1 integrin and CD36, exclusively present on stress reticulocytes, and CD47 on mature RBCs. More recently, attention focused on Lu/BCAM, the unique RBC receptor for laminin, and on ICAM-4, a red cell-specific adhesion receptor, which is a ligand for a large repertoire of integrins (alphaLbeta2, alphaMbeta2, alphaxbeta2, alphaVbeta3). The counter-receptors on ECs and the role of plasma proteins forming bridges between blood cells and ECs have been clarified in part. It has also been shown that reticulocytes from SCD patients express higher levels of alpha4beta1 integrin and CD36, and that under hydroxyurea (HU) therapy, both cell adhesion to ECs or extracellular matrix proteins and the levels of these adhesion molecules are reduced. These findings are consistent with the view that enhanced adhesion of blood cells to ECs is largely determined by the membrane expression level of adhesion molecules and could be a crucial factor for triggering or aggravating vaso-occlusion. In SCD patients, membrane expression of Lu/BCAM (and perhaps ICAM-4) is enhanced on RBCs whose adherence to laminin or ECs is also increased. Interestingly, Lu/BCAM- and ICAM-4-mediated adhesion are enhanced by the stress mediator epinephrine through a PKA-dependent pathway initiated by a rise in intracellular cAMP and leading to receptor activation by phosphorylation according to the same signaling pathway. More recently, studies based on quantitative expression analysis of adhesion molecules on RBCs and during erythroid differentiation in patients undergoing HU therapy, surprisingly revealed that Lu/BCAM level was enhanced, although alpha4beta1, CD36 and ICAM-4 (to a lower extent) levels were indeed reduced. CD47 and CD147 expression were also enhanced in HU-treated patients. Based on these findings we suggest that the signalization cascade leading to receptor activation rather than the expression level only of adhesion molecules may be the critical factor regulating cell adhesion, although both mechanisms are not mutually exclusive.

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