The erythrocytes of the newborn infant have many properties that distinguish them from those of adults, and their membranes are also different from those of adult erythrocytes. We compared the ability of adult and neonatal RBCs to undergo endocytosis on exposure to drugs. Using a quantitative method, we showed that neonatal erythrocytes undergo a greater degree of endocytosis than do adult RBCs in response to primaquine, vinblastine, and chlorpromazine, and are sensitive to lower concentrations of the drugs. Some forms of drug-induced endocytosis are red cell age-dependent; when RBCs were separated by density gradient centrifugation, the membranes of the younger, less dense populations of both the neonatal and adult RBCs were capable of more extensive internalization than those of the denser, older RBCs. Neonatal RBCs of a given density undergo more endocytosis than do adult RBCs of the same density, suggesting that the membrane of the neonatal RBC is less stable and capable of more of the reorganization reflected in endocytosis than is the adult RBC membrane.

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