The K+ efflux that mediates sickle-cell dehydration may occur through several pathways, including two with a high capacity for mediating rapid K+ loss, KCl cotransport and the Ca(2+)-dependent K+ channel [K(Ca2+)]. The rate and pathway of red blood cell (RBC) dehydration most likely depends on cell age and hemoglobin (Hb) composition, with the presence of HbF playing an important role. Oxygenated sickle RBCs have relatively stable cell volume during incubation in vitro, whereas deoxygenated cells become dehydrated, and therefore more dense, due to activation of one or more K+ efflux pathways. In this investigation, sickle RBCs were deoxygenated either continuously or in 15-minute cycles for 4 hours, and the density increases of very young, transferrin receptor-positive (TfR+) cells and the remaining TfR-cells were determined. The contribution of KCl cotransport was estimated by replacing Cl-with NO3-.K(Ca2+) was inhibited by removal of Ca2+ or addition of charybdotoxin (ChTX). For both continuous and cyclic deoxygenation, TfR+ cells had a greater density increase when compared with TfR-cells. The lower percentage of HbF found in the TfR+ population may contribute to this difference. With continuous deoxygenation, the density shift was decreased by inhibition of K(Ca2+), but not by inhibition of KCl cotransport. With cyclic deoxygenation, the density shift was decreased in an independent, additive manner by inhibition of both pathways. Thus, cyclic deoxygenation of sickle cells under these conditions appears to activate both K(Ca2+) and the KCl cotransporter.

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