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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Ca2+-activated K+ efflux limits complement-mediated lysis of human erythrocytes.

The lytic effect of complement on human erythrocytes has been reported by others to increase when Na+ is substituted for K+ in the external medium. In this paper we have investigated the hypothesis that net loss of K+ through a K+ transport pathway protects erythrocytes from complement-induced colloidosmotic swelling and lysis. Antibody-sensitized human erythrocytes containing different intracellular cation concentrations (nystatin treatment) were exposed to low concentrations of guinea pig serum in media of different cation composition; complement lysis was assessed by the release of hemoglobin and the volume of the surviving cells estimated by their density distribution profiles. Complement-dependent swelling and lysis of erythrocytes (a) were limited by the presence of an outwardly directed K+ electrochemical gradient and (b) were enhanced by carbocyanine, a specific inhibitor of the Ca2+-activated K+ transport pathway, and by absence of Ca2+ in the external medium. We propose that during complement activation a rising cytosolic calcium triggers the Ca2+-activated K+ permeability pathway, the Gardos effect, produces a net K+, Cl- and water loss, and thus limits the colloidosmotic swelling and lysis of erythrocytes.[1]


  1. Ca2+-activated K+ efflux limits complement-mediated lysis of human erythrocytes. Halperin, J.A., Brugnara, C., Nicholson-Weller, A. J. Clin. Invest. (1989) [Pubmed]
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