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Cell Physiol Biochem. 2016;39(2):554-64. doi: 10.1159/000445647. Epub 2016 Jul 11.

Stimulating Effect of Sclareol on Suicidal Death of Human Erythrocytes.

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Departments of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Medicine and Physiology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.



The diterpene alcohol Sclareol has been proposed for the treatment of malignancy. In analogy to apoptosis of nucleated cells, erythrocytes may enter eryptosis, a suicidal cell death characterized by cell shrinkage and cell membrane scrambling with phosphatidylserine translocation to the erythrocyte surface. Cellular mechanisms involved in the triggering of eryptosis include increase of cytosolic Ca2+ activity ([Ca2+]i), oxidative stress, ceramide, p38 kinase and casein kinase 1α. The present study explored, whether Sclareol induces eryptosis and, if so, shed light on the mechanisms involved.


Phosphatidylserine abundance at the erythrocyte surface was estimated from annexin-V-binding, cell volume from forward scatter, [Ca2+]i from Fluo3-fluorescence, abundance of reactive oxygen species (ROS) from 2',7'-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate (DCFDA)-dependent fluorescence, and ceramide abundance at the erythrocyte surface utilizing specific antibodies. Hemolysis was estimated from haemoglobin concentration in the supernatant.


A 48 hours exposure of human erythrocytes to Sclareol (≥ 50 µM) significantly increased the percentage of annexin-V-binding cells without significantly modifying the average forward scatter, DCF-fluorescence or ceramide abundance. Sclareol (≥ 50 µM) further triggered hemolysis. Sclareol (100 µM) significantly increased Fluo3-fluorescence, but the effect of Sclareol on annexin-V-binding was not significantly blunted by removal of extracellular Ca2+. Instead, the effect of Sclareol on annexin-V-binding was significantly blunted in the presence of p38 kinase inhibitor skepinone (2 µM) and in the presence of casein kinase 1α inhibitor D4476 (10 µM).


Sclareol triggers phospholipid scrambling of the erythrocyte cell membrane, an effect in part due to activation of p38 kinase and casein kinase 1α.

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