Abnormal erythrocyte metabolism in hepatic disease

J. R. Smith, N. E. Kay, A. J. Gottlieb, F. A. Oski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Erythrocyte (RBC) metabolic studies were done on 114 patients with severe hepatic disease. Heinz body formation after incubation of RBCs with acetyl phenylhydrazine was found to be significantly higher in patients than in controls. RBC reduced glutathione levels were lower than those of controls both before and after incubation with acetyl phenylhydrazine, and patients with the highest Heinz body counts had the lowest reduced glutathione levels. RBC methylene blue stimulated hexose monophosphate (HMP) shunt metabolism and glucose recycling through the shunt were significantly lower in patients with active hepatic disease than in controls. There was no difference in resting HMP shunt activity or in resting recycling of glucose. Despite impairment of shunt metabolism, total glucose consumption was greater in patients than in controls. The patients with the lowest stimulated HMP shunt metabolism and glucose recycling had the highest Heinz body counts, lowest reduced glutathione, and highest total glucose consumption. A continuum of abnormal shunt metabolism was seen, from a mild reduction of stimulated HMP shunt activity to a severe combined decrease in both the HMP shunt and glucose recycling. When measured, glutathione reductase, glutathione peroxidase, glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase, and transketolase were normal or increased. Sequential studies were done on 11 patients who had abnormal metabolic studies. Coincident with improvement of HMP shunt metabolism, the Heinz body counts became lower, reduced glutathione higher, hematocrit higher, and liver function improved. Impaired HMP shunt metabolism appears to be a common, acquired RBC abnormality in patients with severe, active liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-964
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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