New insights on hereditary erythrocyte membrane defects

Immacolata Andolfo, Roberta Russo, Antonella Gambale, Achille Iolascon
Haematologica 2016, 101 (11): 1284-1294
After the first proposed model of the red blood cell membrane skeleton 36 years ago, several additional proteins have been discovered during the intervening years, and their relationship with the pathogenesis of the related disorders have been somewhat defined. The knowledge of erythrocyte membrane structure is important because it represents the model for spectrin-based membrane skeletons in all cells and because defects in its structure underlie multiple hemolytic anemias. This review summarizes the main features of erythrocyte membrane disorders, dividing them into structural and altered permeability defects, focusing particularly on the most recent advances. New proteins involved in alterations of the red blood cell membrane permeability were recently described. The mechanoreceptor PIEZO1 is the largest ion channel identified to date, the fundamental regulator of erythrocyte volume homeostasis. Missense, gain-of-function mutations in the PIEZO1 gene have been identified in several families as causative of dehydrated hereditary stomatocytosis or xerocytosis. Similarly, the KCNN4 gene, codifying the so called Gardos channel, has been recently identified as a second causative gene of hereditary xerocytosis. Finally, ABCB6 missense mutations were identified in different pedigrees of familial pseudohyperkalemia. New genomic technologies have improved the quality and reduced the time of diagnosis of these diseases. Moreover, they are essential for the identification of the new causative genes. However, many questions remain to solve, and are currently objects of intensive studies.

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