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J Clin Invest. 1984 Apr;73(4):1130-43.

Abnormality of glycophorin-alpha on paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria erythrocytes.


To investigate the greater enzymatic activity of the alternative pathway convertase (and the subsequent greater fixation of C3b) on paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) erythrocytes, we have examined the topography of binding of C3b to PNH and normal erythrocytes. Using sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and autoradiography, the alpha-chain of C3b was found to bind via predominantly ester bonds to free hydroxyl groups on glycophorin-alpha, the major erythrocyte sialoglycoprotein. The pattern of binding of nascent C3b was the same for normal and PNH erythrocytes. Thus, although C3b binding to a different membrane constituent did not appear to account for the greater enzymatic activity of the alternative pathway convertase when affixed to PNH erythrocytes, it seemed possible that the glycoproteins to which C3b bound might be qualitatively abnormal on the PNH cells, and that structural differences in these molecules might impose modifications in the enzyme-substrate interactions of the alternative pathway convertase. Using methods for radiolabeling both protein and carbohydrate residues, we therefore compared the electrophoretic pattern of the cell-surface glycoproteins on PNH and normal erythrocytes. The glycophorin-alpha dimer was found to be qualitatively abnormal on the PNH cells as evidenced by its greater susceptibility to trypsin-mediated proteolysis. In addition, the abnormal erythrocytes from patients with PNH had fewer periodate oxidizable constituents than did normal erythrocytes, indicating a relative deficiency of cell-surface sialic acid. These investigations suggest that abnormalities in membrane glycoproteins may underlie the aberrant interactions of complement with the hematopoietic elements of PNH.

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