Similarities between lead-induced anemia and a new hereditary erythorenzymopathy involving pyrimidine-specific 5'-nucleotidase prompted studies of the effects of lead on this and other erythrocyte enzymes. In vitro incubations of normal mature erythrocytes demonstrated that significant inhibition of pyrimidine 5'-nucleotidase occurred in the presence of lead at concentrations that had minimal effects on many other erythrocyte enzymes assayed simultaneously. Similarly, subjects with chronic lead intoxication secondary to industrial exposure exhibited substantial and consistent impairment of erythrocyte pyrimidine-5'-nucleotidase activity. Results suggest that lead-induced deficiency of this enzyme in maturing erythroid elements could, if sufficiently severe, result in induction of basophilic stippling and premature erythrocyte hemolysis analogous to that encountered in the genetically induced enzyme-deficiency syndrome.
D E Paglia, W N Valentine, J G Dahlgren