Lead-induced procoagulant activation of erythrocytes through phosphatidylserine exposure may lead to thrombotic diseases

Jung Hun Shin, Kyung Min Lim, Ji Yoon Noh, Ok Nam Bae, Seung Min Chung, Moo Yeol Lee, Jin Ho Chung

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37 Scopus citations


Lead (Pb) is a ubiquitous heavy metal pollutant in various environmental media, especially in food and drinking water. In human blood, about 95% of lead is associated with erythrocytes, suggesting that erythrocytes could be an important target of lead toxicity in the cardiovascular system. Recent studies suggested that erythrocytes could contribute to blood coagulation via phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure and resultant procoagulant activation. We investigated the effects of lead on the procoagulant activity of erythrocytes using in vitro human erythrocyte and in vivo rat models. In a flow cytometric analysis, lead (Pb2+) enhanced PS exposure on human erythrocytes in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. The concentration of lead (1-5 μM) used in the current investigation is well within the ranges observed in blood from lead-exposed populations. PS exposure by lead appeared to be mediated by increased intracellular calcium levels as shown by 19F-NMR and intracellular ATP depletion. Consistent with these findings, the activity of scramblase, which is important in the induction of PS exposure, was enhanced, whereas the activity of flippase, which translocates exposed PS to inner membrane, was inhibited by lead treatment. Furthermore, lead-exposed erythrocytes increased thrombin generation as determined by a prothrombinase assay and accelerated the coagulation process initiated by tissue factor in plasma. These procoagulant activations by lead were also confirmed in vivo. Administration of lead significantly enhanced PS exposure on erythrocytes and, more importantly, elevated thrombus formation in a rat venous thrombosis model. These results suggest that lead exposure can provoke procoagulant activity in erythrocytes by PS exposure, contributing to enhanced clot formation. These data will provide new insights into the mechanism of lead-induced cardiovascular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-43
Number of pages6
JournalChemical Research in Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


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