The cellular basis for different fetal hemoglobin levels among sickle cell individuals with two, three, and four alpha-globin genes

G. J. Dover, V. T. Chang, S. H. Boyer, G. R. Serjeant, S. Antonarakis, D. R. Higgs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fetal hemoglobin (HbF) levels vary widely among individuals with sickle cell anemia (SS). Previous studies have suggested that HbF levels in SS individuals with alpha-thalassemia (two or three functional alpha-globin genes) are lower than HbF levels in SS individuals with four normal alpha-globin genes. Using immunocytochemical techniques, we studied F cell production as measured by % F reticulocytes, the amount of HbF per F cell, and the preferential survival of F cells versus non-F cells in 51 subjects with four alpha genes, 32 subjects with three alpha genes, and 18 subjects with two alpha genes. Comparison between alpha-globin gene groups was performed for the total sample as well as for a subset of 82 individuals who had replicate samples and a further subset of 39 age-matched individuals. bF levels were 6.8, 4.9, and 4.5 percent for the total four-, three-, and two-alpha-globin-gene groups, respectively. The percentage of F reticulocytes, percentage HbF per F cell, and the enrichment ratio (% F cell/% F reticulocytes) did not change significantly with alpha-globin gene number. Moreover, no correlation existed between alpha-globin gene number and the absolute number of F cells in any group studied. However, there was a strong inverse correlation (r = -0.407, P = .0001) between non-F cell levels (1.7 ± 2, 2.2 ± 5, 3.0 ± 1.0 x 1012/L) and decreasing alpha-globin gene number. These data suggest that falling HbF levels among SS individuals with lessened numbers of alpha-globin genes reflect prolonged survival of non-F cells and are not due to intrinsic differences in F cell production or in the amount of HbF per F cell. The improved survival of non-F cells in SS alpha-thalassemia is presumed to be due to the lower MCHC observed in such individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-344
Number of pages4
JournalBlood
Volume69
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology

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