Disorders of erythrocyte hydration

Patrick G. Gallagher


The erythrocyte contains a network of pathways that regulate salt and water content in the face of extracellular and intracellular osmotic perturbations. This allows the erythrocyte to maintain a narrow range of cell hemoglobin concentration, a process critical for normal red blood cell function and survival. Primary disorders that perturb volume homeostasis jeopardize the erythrocyte and may lead to its premature destruction. These disorders are marked by clinical, laboratory, and physiologic heterogeneity. Recent studies have revealed that these disorders are also marked by genetic heterogeneity. They have implicated roles for several proteins, PIEZO1, a mammalian mechanosensory protein; GLUT1, the glucose transporter; SLC4A1, the anion transporter; RhAG, the Rh-associated glycoprotein; KCNN4, the Gardos channel; and ABCB6, an adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette family member, in the maintenance of erythrocyte volume homeostasis. Secondary disorders of erythrocyte hydration include sickle cell disease, thalassemia, hemoglobin CC, and hereditary spherocytosis, where cellular dehydration may be a significant contributor to disease pathology and clinical complications. Understanding the pathways regulating erythrocyte water and solute content may reveal innovative strategies to maintain normal volume in disorders associated with primary or secondary cellular dehydration. These mechanisms will serve as a paradigm for other cells and may reveal new therapeutic targets for disease prevention and treatment beyond the erythrocyte.

  • Submitted April 21, 2017.
  • Accepted September 12, 2017.
View Full Text