Journal for Biophysical Chemistry

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Open Access

Macromolecular depletion modulates the binding of red blood cells to activated endothelial cells

  • Yang Yang1,
  • Stephanie Koo1,
  • Cheryl Shuyi Lin1 and
  • Björn Neu1

Received: 11 May 2010

Accepted: 14 December 2010


Adhesion of red blood cells (RBCs) to endothelial cells (ECs) is usually insignificant but an enhanced adhesion has been observed in various diseases associated with vascular complications. This abnormal adhesion under pathological conditions such as sickle cell disease has been correlated with increased levels of various plasma proteins but the detailed underlying mechanism(s) remains unclear. Usually it is assumed that the proadhesive effects of plasma proteins originate from ligand interactions cross-linking receptors on adjacent cells, but explicit results detailing binding sites or receptors for some proteins (e.g., fibrinogen) on either RBC or EC surfaces that would support this model are missing. In this study, the authors tested whether there is an alternative mechanism. Their results demonstrate that dextran 2 MDa promotes the adhesion of normal RBCs to thrombin-activated ECs and that this effect becomes more pronounced with increasing thrombin concentration or with prolonged thrombin incubation time. It is concluded that depletion interaction originating from nonadsorbing macromolecules (i.e., dextran) can modulate the adhesion of red blood cells to thrombin-activated EC. This study thereby suggests macromolecular depletion as an alternative mechanism for the adhesion-promoting effects of nonadsorbing plasma proteins. These findings should not only aid in getting a better understanding of diseases associated with vascular complications but should also have many potential applications in biomedical or biotechnological areas that require the control of cell-cell or cell surface interactions.