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Cellular & Molecular Biology Letters

Open Access

Effects of lead chloride on human erythrocyte membranes and on kinetic anion sulphate and glutathione concentrations

  • Tiziana Gugliotta1,
  • Grazia De Luca1,
  • Pietro Romano1,
  • Caterina Rigano1,
  • Adriana Scuteri1 and
  • Leonardo Romano1Email author
Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201217:27

Received: 10 January 2012

Accepted: 15 August 2012

Published: 1 September 2012


Our study concerns the effects of exposure to lead chloride on the morphology, K+ efflux, SO4 influx and GSH levels of the human erythrocyte. Blood was collected in heparinized tubes and washed three times. The cells were suspended at 3% hematocrit and incubated for 1 h at 25°C in a medium containing increasing concentrations of lead chloride (0, 0.3, 0.5 and 1 μM). After incubation, the suspensions were centrifuged and the erythrocyte pellets were divided into three aliquots for testing. The results show: an increase in the permeability of erythrocytes treated with lead chloride with consequent damage and cellular death, especially in the presence of high concentrations; an increase in potassium ion efflux; alterations in the morphology and membrane structure of the red blood cells; and a decrease in sulphate uptake, due either to the oxidative effect of this compound on the band 3 protein, which loses its biological valence as a carrier of sulphate ions, or to a decrease in the ATP erythrocyte concentration. In conclusion, the exposure of erythrocytes to Pb2+ ions leads to a reduction in the average lifetime of the erythrocytes and the subsequent development of anemia. These data are discussed in terms of the possible effect of lead on the reduction-oxidation systems of the cell. Oxidant agents, such as lead, are known to cross-link integral membrane proteins, leading to K/Cl-cotransport. The increased K+ efflux affects the altered redox state.

Key words

Anion transportBand 3 proteinErythrocytesErythrocyte membraneGSHGSSGLead chlorideScanning electron microscopyAnemiaAdenosine 5′ triphosphateSulphate influx