To further define the nature of abnormal iron deposits on the membranes of pathologic red blood cells, we have used sickle cell anemia (HbSS), HbSC, and β-thalassemic erythrocytes (RBCs) to prepare inside-out membranes (IOM) and insoluble membrane aggregates (AGGs) containing coclustered hemichrome and band 3. Study of IOM from HbSC and thalassemic patients showed that amounts of heme iron and, especially, free iron were much higher in patients who had undergone surgical splenectomy. The membrane AGGs from HbSS and β-thalassemic RBCs contained much more globin than heme, with this discrepancy being variable from patient to patient. Although these AGGs were enriched (compared with the ghosts from which they were derived) for heme, as expected, less than 10% of total ghost heme was recovered in them. Remarkably, these AGGs also were enriched for nonheme iron, markedly so in some patients. Iron binding studies showed that the association of free iron with these hemichrome/ band 3 AGGs is explained by the fact that free iron binds to denatured hemoglobin. These results document that free iron is nonrandomly associated with the membranes of sickle and β-thalassemic RBCs. Whether this plays a causative role in the premature removal of such cells from the circulation remains to be seen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology