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

Favism: impairment of proteolytic systems in red blood cells.

Red blood cells (RBC) from favic patients are characterized by (a) severe oxidative damage (contributed by autoxidation of divicine and isouramil, two pyrimidine aglycones present in fava beans) and (b) greatly increased calcium levels. In vitro, both autoxidation of divicine and calcium loading produced marked alterations of proteolytic systems in intact RBC. Specifically, autoxidizing divicine inactivated procalpain, the proenzyme species of calcium-activated cytosolic neutral proteinase, or calpain. Inactivation was much greater with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)-deficient RBC than with normal RBC. On the other hand, loading of normal and G6PD-deficient RBC with calcium resulted in conversion of procalpain to calpain and eventual autoproteolytic inactivation of calpain itself, and extensive release of acid endopeptidase activity from the membranes into the cytosol. Damaged RBC from favic patients had significantly lowered procalpain activity and an abnormal subcellular distribution of acid proteinase activity that was found mostly in the cytosol. When purified calpain was incubated with membranes from acetylphenylhydrazine (APH)-treated RBC, significant proteolysis was observed affecting mostly band 3 and hemoglobin chains, ie, the two proteins involved in the onset of aggregation of Heinz bodies. Moreover, exposure of intact RBC to 20 mmol/L APH induced depletion of procalpain activity for which the time course was inversely related to formation of Heinz bodies. These findings support the role of procalpain in protecting G6PD-deficient RBC from oxidant-induced Heinz body formation and imply that exhaustion of the procalpain-calpain system is an important step in the mechanisms of RBC damage and destruction in favism.[1]


  1. Favism: impairment of proteolytic systems in red blood cells. Morelli, A., Grasso, M., Meloni, T., Forteleoni, G., Zocchi, E., De Flora, A. Blood (1987) [Pubmed]
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