The belief is widely held, on the basis of indirect evidence, that a substantial, even brief elevation of red cell Ca content must result in a marked shortening of circulatory survival. To test this notion directly, we exposed rabbit red cells in vitro to the ionophore A23187 and Ca so as to produce sustained uniform cell Ca levels of 40 to 360 mumol/L cells for one to 60 minutes, and compared the survival of the Ca-loaded cells in vivo with that of ionophore-treated controls, simultaneously, in the same rabbits. Despite marked reductions in cell adenosine triphosphate and dehydration of the Ca-exposed cells prior to reinfusion, the majority of cells, all of which had experienced these high cytoplasmic Ca levels, showed normal or near-normal survival in the circulation.

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