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Biometals. 2009 Jun;22(3):453-60. doi: 10.1007/s10534-008-9180-5. Epub 2008 Dec 2.

Eryptosis triggered by bismuth.

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Department of Physiology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Bismuth is used for multiple industrial purposes and in the treatment of several gastrointestinal diseases. Untoward effects of bismuth include anemia, which could, in theory, result from suicidal erythrocyte death or eryptosis. Hallmarks of eryptosis are cell shrinkage and cell membrane scrambling with phosphatidylserine exposure at the cell surface. Phosphatidylserine-exposing cells are rapidly cleared from circulating blood. Signaling leading to eryptosis includes increase in cytosolic Ca(2+) activity and formation of ceramide. The present experiments explored whether bismuth elicits eryptosis. To this end, phosphatidylserine exposure was estimated from annexin V-binding, cell shrinkage from decrease of forward scatter in FACS analysis, cytosolic Ca(2+) activity from Fluo3 fluorescence and ceramide abundance from binding of fluorescent antibodies. A 48 h exposure to bismuth (> or =500 microg/l BiCl(3)) enhanced the percentage of annexin V-binding cells and decreased forward scatter, increased cytosolic Ca(2+) activity, and stimulated ceramide formation. In conclusion, bismuth stimulates eryptosis, the suicidal death of erythrocytes. The effect may contribute to or even account for the development of anemia during bismuth treatment. Moreover, ceramide formation in intestinal cells may participate in the therapeutic efficacy of bismuth preparations.

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