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Research Article

In vivo demonstration of red cell-endothelial interaction, sickling and altered microvascular response to oxygen in the sickle transgenic mouse.

D K Kaul, M E Fabry, F Costantini, E M Rubin and R L Nagel

Division of Hematology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York 10461, USA.

Published December 1995

Intravascular sickling, red cell-endothelium interaction, and altered microvascular responses have been suggested to contribute to the pathophysiology of human sickle cell disease, but have never been demonstrated under in vivo flow. To address this issue, we have examined a transgenic mouse line, alphaHbetaSbetaS-Antilles [betaMDD] which has a combined high (78%) expression of beta S and beta S-Antilles globins. In vivo microcirculatory studies using the cremaster muscle preparation showed adhesion of red cells, restricted to postcapillary venules, in transgenic mice but not in control mice. Electron microscopy revealed distinct contacts between the red cell membrane and the endothelium surface. Some red cells exhibiting sickling were regularly observed in the venular flow. Infusion of transgenic mouse red cells into the ex vivo mesocecum vasculature also showed adhesion of mouse red cells exclusively in venules. Under resting conditions (pO2, 15-20 mmHg), there were no differences in the cremaster microvascular diameters of control and transgenic mice; however, transgenic mice showed a drastic reduction in microvascular red cell velocities (Vrbc) with maximal Vrbc decrease (> 60%) occurring in venules, the sites of red cell adhesion and sickling. Local, transient hyperoxia (pO2, 150 mmHg) resulted in striking differences between control and transgenic mice. In controls, oxygen caused a 69% arteriolar constriction, accompanied by 75% reduction in Vrbc. In contrast, in transgenic mice, hyperoxia resulted in only 8% decrease in the arteriolar diameter and in 68% increase in VrBC; the latter is probably due to an improved flow behavior of red cells as a consequence of unsickling. In summary, the high expression of human sickle hemoglobin in the mouse results not only in intravascular sickling but also red cell-endothelium interaction. The altered microvascular response to oxygen could be secondary to blood rheological changes, although possible intrinsic differences in the endothelial cell/vascular smooth muscle function in the transgenic mouse may also contribute. These sickle transgenic mice could serve as a useful model to investigate vasoocclusive mechanisms, as well as to test potential therapies.

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