Redox imbalance of red blood cells impacts T lymphocyte homeostasis: Implication in carotid atherosclerosis

Elisabetta Profumo, Brigitta Buttari, Linda Petrone, Elisabetta Straface, Lucrezia Gambardella, Donatella Pietraforte, Igino Genuini, Raffaele Capoano, Bruno Salvati, Walter Malorni, Rachele Riganò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxidative stress and immune/inflammatory responses are key pathogenetic factors of atherosclerotic disease. In this contest, mechanisms that regulate survival and death of immune cells may be relevant. Previous studies have demonstrated that red blood cells (RBCs) are physiologically able to inhibit apoptosis and to promote proliferation of activated T lymphocytes from healthy subjects. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether RBCs from patients with carotid atherosclerosis maintain their property to modulate T cell homeostasis. Peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) obtained from healthy subjects were activated in vitro by phytohemagglutinin in the presence/absence of RBCs from patients with carotid atherosclerosis or of in vitro oxidised RBCs from healthy subjects. Levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and aging markers of RBCs as well as susceptibility to apoptosis of PBLs were evaluated by flow cytometry. PBL proliferation was evaluated by 3H-methyl-thymidine incorporation assay whereas secretion of cytokines, analysed in view of their key role in T cell function, was assessed by ELISA. Levels of ROS and phosphatidyl-serine externalisation, a sign of RBC aging, resulted significantly higher in RBCs from patients than in those from healthy subjects, whereas surface glycophorin A expression and reduced glutathione content did the opposite. Unlike RBCs obtained from healthy subjects, RBCs from patients and in vitro oxidised RBCs did not protect activated T lymphocytes from apoptosis. Hence, RBCs from patients with carotid atherosclerosis, probably due to their oxidative imbalance, impact T cell integrity and function. Our results suggest a new regulatory role for RBCs in atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1126
Number of pages10
JournalThrombosis and Haemostasis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Apoptosis
  • Carotid atherosclerosis
  • Gender
  • Oxidative stress
  • Peripheral blood lymphocytes
  • Red blood cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


Dive into the research topics of 'Redox imbalance of red blood cells impacts T lymphocyte homeostasis: Implication in carotid atherosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this