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Calcium Ions and the Permeability of Human Red Cells


IT is well known that many tissues when placed in an electrolyte medium are profoundly affected by the presence or absence of calcium ions. This is also true of the red cells of the tortoise1, of the snapping turtle2 and probably of the red cells of certain fishes3–5, which in a calcium-free electrolyte medium become highly permeable to cations, and hence swell and rupture (hæmolysis). The red cells of the frog, chicken and of Mammalia, however, are little affected by suspension in calcium-free sodium chloride solution, exchange of cations with the external medium being very slow, and hæmolysis correspondingly delayed. Nevertheless dependence on calcium of the human red cell may be demonstrated after suitable treatment of the cells in conformity with earlier work by Maizels6 and Wilbrandt7. The former showed that human red cells became highly permeable to cations when placed in an electrolyte-free medium (for example, glucose), unless about 10 mM sodium or potassium chloride were present, while Wilbrandt found sodium and potassium chlorides to be less effective than the salts of the alkaline earths, though there was no specificity within this group, the actions of calcium, magnesium, strontium and barium being quantitatively similar.

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  1. 1

    Maizels, M., J. Physiol., 132, 414 (1956).

  2. 2

    Lyman, R. A., J. Cell Comp. Physiol., 25, 65 (1945).

  3. 3

    Black, E. C., and Irving, L., J. Cell. Comp. Physiol., 12, 255 (1938).

  4. 4

    Ferguson, J. K. W., Horvath, S. M., and Pappenheimer, J. R., J. Cell. Comp. Physiol., 75, 381 (1938).

  5. 5

    Hamdi, T. N., and Ferguson, J. K. W., Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med., 44, 427 (1940).

  6. 6

    Maizels, M., Biochem. J., 29, 1970 (1935).

  7. 7

    Wilbrandt, W., Pflug. Arch. ges. Physiol., 243, 537 (1940).

  8. 8

    McCutcheon, M., and Lucke, B., J. gen. Physiol., 12, 129 (1928).

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