Favism is an acute anemic crisis that can occur in susceptible individuals who ingest fava beans. The fava bean pyrimidine aglycone divicine has been identified as a hemotoxic constituent; however, its mechanism of toxicity remains unknown. We have shown recently that divicine can induce a favic-like response in rats and that divicine is directly toxic to rat red cells. In the present study, we have examined the effect of hemotoxic concentrations of divicine on rat erythrocyte sulfhydryl status, hexose monophosphate (HMP) shunt activity, morphology, and membrane skeletal proteins. In vitro exposure of rat red cells to divicine markedly stimulated HMP shunt activity and resulted in depletion of reduced glutathione with concomitant formation of glutathione-protein mixed-disulfides. Examination of divicine-treated red cells by scanning electron microscopy revealed transformation of the cells to an extreme echinocytic morphology. SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting analysis of the membrane skeletal proteins indicated that hemotoxicity was associated with the apparent loss of skeletal protein bands 2.1, 3, and 4.2, and the appearance of membrane-bound hemoglobin. Treatment of divicine-damaged red cells with dithiothreitol reversed the protein changes, which indicated that the observed alterations were due primarily to the formation of disulfide-linked hemoglobin-skeletal protein adducts. The data suggest that oxidative modification of hemoglobin and membrane skeletal proteins by divicine may be key events in the mechanism underlying favism.
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency
- Hemolytic anemia
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