Adherence of sickle erythrocytes to vascular endothelial cells: requirement for both cell membrane changes and plasma factors

N Mohandas and E Evans


Hebbel and colleagues have proposed that increased adherence of sickle red cells to vascular endothelium may initiate vasoocclusive events in sickle cell disease. We have developed a micropipette technique to obtain direct, quantitative measure of the adherence of individual red cells to vascular endothelial cells. Using this technique, we found that the vast majority of sickle cells suspended in autologous plasma were strongly adherent to endothelial cells, whereas only a small fraction of normal cells were weakly adherent. Influence of plasma factors on adherence was determined by measuring adherence of sickle cells suspended in normal plasma and normal cells suspended in sickle plasma. Although over 90% of sickle cells adhered to endothelial cells in autologous plasma, the percentage of adherent cells decreased dramatically to less than 20% when the same sickle cells were suspended in normal plasma. In contrast, adhesion of normal red cells suspended in sickle plasma was only modestly increased compared to adhesion in autologous normal plasma. Our results provide direct evidence for markedly enhanced adherence of sickle cells to endothelial cells. In addition, they suggest that both cell membrane changes and plasma factors contribute to this interaction. The requirement for sickle plasma further implies that temporal changes in plasma factors may play an important role in determining the onset of vasoocclusive crisis.