The role of membrane sialic acid in erythrocyte survival is unclear, although there is evidence for a reduction in sialic acid and surface charge in older erythrocytes. We reduced the surface charge of human, rat, and rabbit erythrocytes by removing sialic acid with neuraminidase.Reduction in sialic acid correlated with decreases in electrophoretic mobility and loss of PAS staining of membrane glycoproteins on polyacrylamide gels. No changes in ATP levels or deformability were found. 51Cr erythrocyte survivals in rats and rabbits showed rapid clearance of desialylated erythrocytes with sequestration by the liver.These results suggest that reduction in erythrocyte sialic acid is a mechanism of erythrocyte destruction and may be important in erythrocyte senescence.

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