Glycoconjugate Journal

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 258–267 | Cite as

Flow cytofluorimetric analysis of young and senescent human erythrocytes probed with lectins. Evidence that sialic acids control their life span

  • Daniela Bratosin
  • Joel Mazurier
  • Henri Debray
  • Myriam Lecocq
  • Benoni Boilly
  • Catherine Alonso
  • Magdalena Moisei
  • Cecilia Motas
  • Jean Montreuil
Glycoconjagate Journal


Comparing the properties of ‘young’ and senescent (‘aged’) O+ erythrocytes isolated by applying ultracentrifugation in a self-forming Percoll gradient, we demonstrate that the sialic acids of membrane glycoconjugates control the life span of erythrocytes and that the desialylation of glycans is responsible for the clearance of the aged erythrocytes. This capture is mediated by a β-galactolectin present in the membrane of macrophages. The evidence supporting these conclusions is as follows:
  1. (1)

    Analysis by flow cytofluorimetry of the binding of fluorescein isothiocyanate labelled lectins specific for sialic acids shows that the aged erythrocytes bind less WGA, LPA, SNA and MAA than young erythrocytes. The binding of DSA and LCA is not modified. On the contrary, the number of binding sites of UEA-I specific for O antigen and of AAA decreases significantly. PNA and GNA do not bind to erythrocytes.

  2. (2)

    RCA120 as well asErythrina cristagalli andErythrina corallodendron lectins specific for terminal β-galactose residues lead to unexpected and unexplained results with a decrease in the number of lectin binding sites associated with increasing desialylation.

  3. (3)

    The glycoconjugates from the old erythrocytes incorporate more sialic acid than the young cells. This observation results from the determination of the rate of transfer by α-2,6-sialyltransferase of fluorescent or radioactiveN-acetylneuraminic acid, using as donors CMP-9-fluoresceinyl-NeuAc and CMP-[14C]-NeuAc, respectively.

  4. (4)

    Microscopy shows that the old erythrocytes are captured preferentially by the macrophages relative to the young ones. Fixation of erythrocytes by the macrophage membrane is inhibited by lactose, thus demonstrating the involvement of a terminal β-galactose specific macrophage lectin.

  5. (5)

    Comparative study of the binding of WGA, LPA, SNA and MAA to the aged erythrocytes and to thein vitro enzymatically desialylated erythrocytes shows that the desialylation rate of aged cells is low but sufficient to lead to their capture by the macrophages



Senescent erythrocytes lectins flow cytofluorimetry sialic acid erythrophagocytosis macrophages endogeneous galactolectin 



bovine serum albumin


cytidine monophosphateN-acetylneuraminate


cell sialylation buffer


ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid


fluoresceinyl isothiocyanate




N-acetylneuraminic acid


polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


Dulbecco's phosphate buffer saline solution


phenylmethyl-sulfonyl fluoride


red blood cells


Senescent Cell Antigen


sodium dodecyl sulfate


senescent factor glycopeptides



Aleuria aurantia agglutinin


Datura stramonium agglutinin


Erythrina cristagalli agglutinin


Galanthus nivalis agglutinin


Lens culinaris agglutinin


Limax flavus agglutinin


Limulus polyphemus agglutinin


Maackia amurensis agglutinin


peanut agglutinin


Ricinus communis agglutinin


Sambucus nigra agglutinin


Ulex europeus agglutinin-I


Wheat germ agglutinin


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniela Bratosin
    • 1
  • Joel Mazurier
    • 2
  • Henri Debray
    • 2
  • Myriam Lecocq
    • 2
  • Benoni Boilly
    • 3
  • Catherine Alonso
    • 2
  • Magdalena Moisei
    • 1
  • Cecilia Motas
    • 1
  • Jean Montreuil
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Biochemistry of the Romanian AcademyBucharestRomania
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Chimie Biologique (UMR 111 du CNRS)Université des Sciences et Technologies de LilleVilleneuve d'AscqFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Biologie du DéveloppementUniversité des Sciences et Technologies de LilleVilleneuve d'AscqFrance

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