Adherence of sickle (SS) erythrocytes to endothelial cells represents interactions between red blood cell (RBC) and endothelial cell surface molecules. To enhance our understanding of the ligands involved, we transfected COS cells with the cDNAs of two endothelial cell adhesion molecules, VCAM-1 and E-selectin, and measured the binding of normal and sickle RBCs after static incubation. The percentage of COS cells with rosettes (five or more adherent RBCs) was determined. Normal RBCs did not adhere to VCAM-1-transfected COS cells. Unfractionated SS RBCs formed rosettes on the VCAM-1-transfected COS cells (mean +/- SD, 5.85% +/- 4.98%). Low-density SS RBCs were more adherent than high-density SS RBCs (P < .005). The adherent SS RBCs were a young reticulocyte population, staining positively for transferrin receptor. Another measure of reticulocyte age, RNA content, also correlated with adherence. SS RBC binding was specific--inhibitable by antibodies to either VCAM-1 or the alpha 4 integrin chain of VLA-4. In contrast, there was no significant adherence of normal or SS RBCs to E-selectin- transfected COS cells. These results suggest that young reticulocytes bind to endothelial cell VCAM-1 via VLA-4 integrin.

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