Infusion of epinephrine-activated human sickle erythrocytes (SS RBCs) into nude mice promotes both SS RBC and murine leukocyte adhesion to vascular endothelium in vivo. We hypothesized that interaction of epinephrine-stimulated SS RBCs with leukocytes leads to activation of leukocytes, which then adhere to endothelial cells (ECs). In exploring the underlying molecular mechanisms, we have found that coincubation in vitro of epinephrine-treated SS RBCs with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) results in robust adhesion of PBMCs to ECs. Sham-treated SS RBCs had a similar but less pronounced effect, whereas neither sham- nor epinephrine-treated normal RBCs activated PBMC adhesion. PBMC activation was induced via at least 2 RBC adhesion receptors, LW and CD44. In response to SS RBCs, leukocyte CD44 and beta2 integrins mediated PBMC adhesion to ECs, a process that involved endothelial E-selectin and fibronectin. SS RBCs activated adhesion of both PBMC populations, lymphocytes and monocytes. Thus, our findings reveal a novel mechanism that may contribute to the pathogenesis of vaso-occlusion in sickle cell disease, in which SS RBCs act via LW and CD44 to stimulate leukocyte adhesion to endothelium, and suggest that RBC LW and CD44 may serve as potential targets for antiadhesive therapy designed to prevent vaso-occlusion.
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