An Investigation of the Effects of Antitumour and Other Drugs on Cell Morphology and the Cytoskeleton of Erythrocytes

  • Kwan-Yuk Tang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Human arythrocytes were used as a model system for an investigation of the mechanism of action of the antiproliferative drug Adriamycin. Erythrocytes were induced to undergo a change in morphology by elevation of intracellular calcium. It was revealed that the widely used media employed for the study of morphological change were unsuitable; a new incubation medium was developed so that cells were metabolically replete. In this medium echinocytosis took place both in a calcium concentration- and time-dependent manner. Pretreatment of erythrocytes with Adriamycin (10µM for 10 mins) protected the erythrocytes against calcium-induced echinocytosis at calcium concentrations < 150µM.

SDS-PAGE analysis of the cytoskeletal proteins prepared from erythrocytes revealed the calcium-induced proteolysis of two main cytoskeletal proteins: band 2:1 and band 4:1. Only the rate of the proteolysis of band 2.1 correlated with the onset of echinocytosis. Adriamycin inhibited the breakdown of band 2.1 even when the cells formed echinocytes; this raises doubts concerning the importance of band 2.1 in the maintenance of discocyte morphology. Adriamycin only marginally inhibited the purified calcium-activated thio protease (calpain).

Calcium-loading of human erythrocytes increased the phosphorylation of several major cytoskeletal proteins including pp120, band 3, band 4.1 and band 4.9. The pattern of increase resembled that induced by 12-0-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate. Pre-treatment with Adriamycin prior to calcium loading caused a general lowering of basal phosphorylation. Adriamycin had no effect on the activity of the calcium-activated phospholipid-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase C). A hypothesis is put forward that the morphological transition of erythrocytes might be dependent upon the activity of a contractile system.
Date of AwardOct 1988
Original languageEnglish


  • Erythrocyte
  • cytoskeleton
  • ankyrin
  • proteolysis
  • phosphorylation
  • calcium
  • Adriamycin (Doxorubicin).

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