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


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.



anion exchanger


adenosine 5′-triphosphate

BaCl2 :

barium chloride

2,3 BPG:

2,3 diphosphoglycerate

Ca2+ :

calcium ion

Cl :

chloride anion




reduced glutathione


oxidized glutathione


hydrochloric acid

HCO3 :

bicarbonate ion


N-[2-hydroxethyl]piperazione-N′-2[2-ethenesulphonic acid]

K+ :

potassium ion


potassium chloride

Na2SO4 :

sodium sulphate


sodium chloride

Pb2+ :

lead ion

PbCl2 :

lead chloride


red blood cell


scanning electron microscopy

SO4 2- :

sulphate anion


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Correspondence to Leonardo Romano.

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Gugliotta, T., De Luca, G., Romano, P. et al. Effects of lead chloride on human erythrocyte membranes and on kinetic anion sulphate and glutathione concentrations. Cell Mol Biol Lett 17, 586–597 (2012).

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Key words

  • Anion transport
  • Band 3 protein
  • Erythrocytes
  • Erythrocyte membrane
  • GSH
  • GSSG
  • Lead chloride
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Anemia
  • Adenosine 5′ triphosphate
  • Sulphate influx