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1.  The Hypoxic Response Contributes to Altered Gene Expression and Pre-Capillary Pulmonary Hypertension in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease 
Circulation  2014;129(16):1650-1658.
We postulated that the hypoxic response in sickle cell disease (SCD) contributes to altered gene expression and pulmonary hypertension, a complication associated with early mortality.
Methods and Results
To identify genes regulated by the hypoxic response and not other effects of chronic anemia, we compared expression variation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 13 SCD subjects with hemoglobin SS genotype and 15 Chuvash polycythemia subjects (VHLR200W homozygotes with constitutive up-regulation of hypoxia inducible factors in the absence of anemia or hypoxia). At 5% false discovery rate, 1040 genes exhibited >1.15 fold change in both conditions; 297 were up-regulated and 743 down-regulated including MAPK8 encoding a mitogen-activated protein kinase important for apoptosis, T-cell differentiation and inflammatory responses. Association mapping with a focus on local regulatory polymorphisms in 61 SCD patients identified expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) for 103 of these hypoxia response genes. In a University of Illinois SCD cohort the A allele of a MAPK8 eQTL, rs10857560, was associated with pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension defined as mean pulmonary artery pressure ≥25 and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure ≤15 mm Hg at right heart catheterization (allele frequency=0.66; OR=13.8, P=0.00036, n=238). This association was confirmed in an independent Walk-PHaSST cohort (allele frequency=0.65; OR=11.3, P=0.0025, n=519). The homozygous AA genotype of rs10857560 was associated with decreased MAPK8 expression and present in all 14 identified pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension cases among the combined 757 patients.
Our study demonstrates a prominent hypoxic transcription component in SCD and a MAPK8 eQTL associated with pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC4287376  PMID: 24515990
sickle cell disease; MAPK8; hypoxic response; expression quantitative trait loci; association mapping; pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension
2.  Iron deficiency modifies gene expression variation induced by augmented hypoxia sensing 
Blood cells, molecules & diseases  2013;52(1):10.1016/j.bcmd.2013.07.016.
In congenital Chuvash polycythemia (CP), VHLR200W homozygosity leads to elevated hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) levels at normoxia. CP is often treated by phlebotomy resulting in iron deficiency, permitting us to examine the separate and synergistic effects of iron deficiency and HIF signaling on gene expression. We compared peripheral blood mononuclear cell gene expression profiles of eight VHLR200W homozygotes with 17 wildtype individuals with normal iron status and found 812 up-regulated and 2120 down-regulated genes at false discovery rate 0.05. Among differential genes we identified three major gene regulation modules involving induction of innate immune responses, alteration of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and down-regulation of cell proliferation, stress-induced apoptosis and T-cell activation. These observations suggest molecular mechanisms for previous observations in CP of lower blood sugar without increased insulin and low oncogenic potential. Studies including 16 additional VHLR200W homozygotes with low ferritin indicated that iron deficiency enhanced the induction effect of VHLR200W for 50 genes including hemoglobin synthesis loci but suppressed the effect for 107 genes enriched for HIF-2 targets. This pattern is consistent with potentiation of HIF-1α protein stability by iron deficiency but a trend for down-regulation of HIF-2α translation by iron deficiency overriding an increase in HIF-2α protein stability.
PMCID: PMC3852195  PMID: 23993337
3.  Clinical correlates of acute pulmonary events in children and adolescents with sickle cell disease* 
We aimed to identify risk factors for acute pulmonary events in children and adolescents in the Pulmonary Hypertension and the Hypoxic Response in SCD (PUSH) study.
Patients with hemoglobin SS (n=376) and other sickle cell genotypes (n=127) aged 3-20 years were studied at four centers in a cross-sectional manner. A sub-group (n=293) was followed for a median of 21 months (range 9-35).
A patient-reported history of one or more acute pulmonary events, either acute chest syndrome (ACS) or pneumonia, was obtained in 195 hemoglobin SS patients (52%) and 51 patients with other genotypes (40%). By logistic regression, history of acute pulmonary events was independently associated with patient-reported history of asthma (p<0.0001), older age (p=0.001), >3 severe pain episodes in the preceding 12 months (p=0.002), higher tricuspid regurgitation velocity (TRV) (p=0.028), and higher white blood cell (WBC) count (p=0.043) among hemoglobin SS patients. History of acute pulmonary events was associated with >3 severe pain episodes (p=0.009) among patients with other genotypes. During follow-up, 43 patients (15%) had at least one new ACS episode including 11 without a baseline history of acute pulmonary events. History of acute pulmonary events (odds ratio 5.4; p<0.0001) and younger age (odds ratio 0.9; p=0.010) were independently associated with developing a new episode during follow-up.
Asthma history, frequent pain and higher values for TRV and WBC count were independently associated with history of acute pulmonary events in hemoglobin SS patients and frequent pain was associated in those with other genotypes. Measures to reduce pain episodes and control asthma may help to decrease the incidence of acute pulmonary events in SCD.
PMCID: PMC3689858  PMID: 23560516
sickle cell disease; acute chest syndrome; vaso-occlusive crisis; asthma; pain
4.  Decreased serum glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels in patients with Chuvash polycythemia: a role for HIF in glucose metabolism 
In Chuvash polycythemia, a homozygous 598C>T mutation in the von Hippel-Lindau gene (VHL) leads to an R200W substitution in VHL protein, impaired degradation of α-subunits of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1 and HIF-2, and augmented hypoxic responses during normoxia. Chronic hypoxia of high altitude is associated with decreased serum glucose and insulin concentrations. Other investigators reported that HIF-1 promotes cellular glucose uptake by increased expression of GLUT1 and increased glycolysis by increased expression of enzymes such as PDK. On the other hand, inactivation of Vhl in murine liver leads to hypoglycemia associated with a HIF-2-related decrease in the expression of the gluconeogenic enzymes genes Pepck, G6pc, and Glut2. We therefore hypothesized that glucose concentrations are decreased in individuals with Chuvash polycythemia. We found that 88 Chuvash VHLR200W homozygotes had lower random glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin A1c levels than 52 Chuvash subjects with wildtype VHL alleles. Serum metabolomics revealed higher glycerol and citrate levels in the VHLR200W homozygotes. We expanded these observations in VHLR200W homozygote mice and found that they had lower fasting glucose values and lower glucose excursions than wild-type control mice but no change in fasting insulin concentrations. Hepatic expression of Glut2 and G6pc but not Pdk2 was decreased and skeletal muscle expression of Glut1, Pdk1 and Pdk4 was increased. These results suggest that both decreased hepatic gluconeogenesis and increased skeletal uptake and glycolysis contribute to the decreased glucose concentrations. Further study is needed to determine whether pharmacologically manipulating HIF expression might be beneficial for treatment of diabetic patients.
PMCID: PMC3537876  PMID: 23015148
VHL; hypoxia inducible factors; glucose; insulin; glycolysis; gluconeogenesis
5.  Serum ferritin concentrations and body iron stores in a multicenter, multiethnic primary-care population 
American journal of hematology  2008;83(8):618-626.
How often elevated serum ferritin in primary-care patients reflects increased iron stores (normally 0.8 g in men, 0.4 g in women) is not known. The Hereditary Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) study screened 101,168 primary-care participants (44% Caucasians, 27% African-Americans, 14% Asians/Pacific Islanders, 13% Hispanics, 2% others). Follow-up clinical evaluation was performed in 302 of 333 HFE C282Y homozygotes regardless of iron measures and 1,375 of 1,920 nonhomozygotes with serum ferritin >300 μg/L (men), >200 μg/L (women) and transferrin saturation >50% (men), >45% (women). Quantitative phlebotomy was conducted in 122 of 175 C282Y homozygotes and 122 of 1,102 nonhomozygotes with non-transfusional serum ferritin elevation at evaluation. The estimated prevalence in the Caucasian population of C282Y homozygotes with serum ferritin >900 μg/L at evaluation was 20 per 10,000 men and 4 per 10,000 women; this constellation was predictive of iron stores >4 g in men and >2 g in women. The estimated prevalence per 10,000 of non-C282Y homozygotes with serum ferritin >900 μg/L at evaluation was 7 among Caucasians, 13 among Hispanics, 20 among African Americans, and 38 among Asians and Pacific Islanders, and this constellation was predictive of iron stores >2 g but <4 g. In conclusion, serum ferritin >900 μg/L after initial elevations of both serum ferritin and transferrin saturation is predictive of mildly increased iron stores in multiple ethnic populations regardless of HFE genotype. Serum ferritin >900 μg/L in male C282Y homozygotes is predictive of moderately increased iron stores.
PMCID: PMC3773165  PMID: 18429050
6.  Echocardiographic Markers of Elevated Pulmonary Pressure and Left Ventricular Diastolic Dysfunction are Associated with Exercise Intolerance in Adults and Adolescents with Homozygous Sickle Cell Anemia in the US and UK 
Circulation  2011;124(13):1452-1460.
Non-invasively assessed pulmonary pressure elevations and left ventricular diastolic dysfunction (LVDD) are associated with increased mortality in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), but their relationship to exercise intolerance has not been evaluated prospectively.
Methods and Results
Echocardiography, six-minute walk distance, hemolytic rate, and serum concentrations of ferritin and erythropoietin were evaluated in a cohort of 483 subjects with homozygous hemoglobin S in the US and UK Walk-PHaSST study. Tricuspid regurgitation velocity (TRV), which reflects systolic pulmonary artery pressure, was 2.7 to <3.0 m/sec (mean±SD 2.8±0.1) in 26% of the subjects and ≥3.0 m/sec (3.4±0.4) in 11%. LV lateral E/e′ ratio, which has been shown to reflect LV filling pressure in other conditions but has not been studied in SCD, was significantly higher in the groups with TRV ≥2.7 m/sec. Increased hemolysis (P<0.0001), LV lateral E/e′ ratio (P=0.0001), BUN (P=0.0002) and erythropoietin (P=0.002) were independently associated with an increased TRV. Further, female gender (P<0.0001), older age (P<0.0001), LV lateral E/e′ ratio (P=0.014), and TRV (P=0.019) were independent predictors of a shorter six-minute walk distance.
Echocardiography-estimated elevated pulmonary artery systolic pressure and LV lateral E/e′ ratio were independently associated with poor exercise capacity in a large cohort of patients with sickle cell anemia. Controlled trials investigating whether strategies to prevent or delay pulmonary hypertension and/or LVDD will improve exercise capacity and long-term outcomes in sickle cell anemia should be considered.
PMCID: PMC3183314  PMID: 21900080
sickle cell anemia; pulmonary hypertension; left ventricular diastolic dysfunction; echocardiography; six-minute walk
7.  Relative Systemic Hypertension in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease is Associated with Risk of Pulmonary Hypertension and Renal Insufficiency 
American Journal of Hematology  2008;83(1):15-18.
We analyzed entry data from 163 adult hemoglobin SS and Sβ0 thalassemia patients enrolled in the prospective Sickle Cell Pulmonary Hypertension Screening Study and stratified their ECHO-determined tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity (TRV) and serum creatinine concentration according to three blood pressure categories. TRV was ≥2.5 m/sec in 27% of the patients with systolic blood pressure (SBP) <120 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) <70 mm Hg, in 37% with SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg, and in 93% with SBP 140 mm Hg or DBP 90 mm Hg or higher (P <0.0005 for trend). Serum creatinine concentration was 1.0 mg/dL or higher in 7% of patients with SBP <120 mm Hg and DBP <70 mm Hg, in 17% with SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg and 50% with SBP 140 mm Hg or DBP 90 mm Hg or higher (P <0.0005 for trend). Over two years of follow-up, there were trends for more frequent progression to elevated TRV (P = 0.073) or creatinine (P = 0.038) values according to the higher systemic blood pressure categories. Our findings suggest that systolic SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg defines a category of relative systemic hypertension in patients with sickle cell disease that is associated with increased risk for pulmonary hypertension and renal dysfunction. Whether antihypertensive and/or nitric oxide donor therapy in sickle cell disease patients with relative hypertension prevents these and other complications should be determined by clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3398810  PMID: 17696198
Alcohol consumption is associated with increased iron stores. In sub-Saharan Africa, high dietary ionic iron and the ferroportin Q248H allele have also been implicated in iron accumulation. We examined the associations of ferroportin Q248H, alcohol and dietary iron with serum ferritin, aspartate aminotransaminase (AST) and alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) concentrations in African Americans.
Inner-city African Americans (103 men, 40 women) were recruited from the community according to reported ingestion of >4 alcoholic drinks per day or <2 per week. Typical daily heme iron, non-heme iron and alcohol were estimated using University of Hawaii’s multiethnic dietary questionnaire. Based on dietary questionnaire estimates we established categories of < versus ≥56 g alcohol per day, equivalent to 4 alcoholic drinks per day assuming 14 g alcohol per drink.
Among 143 participants, 77% drank <56 g alcohol/day and 23% ≥56 g/d as estimated by the questionnaire. The prevalence of ferroportin Q248H was 23.3% with alcohol >56 g/d versus 7.5% with lower amounts (P=0.012). Among subjects with no history of HIV disease, serum ferritin concentration had positive relationships with male gender (P=0.041), alcohol consumption (P=0.021) and ALT concentration (P=0.0001) but not with dietary iron intake or ferroportin Q248H. Serum AST and ALT concentrations had significant positive associations with male gender and hepatitis C seropositivity but not with alcohol or dietary iron intake or ferroportin Q248H.
Our findings suggest a higher prevalence of ferroportin Q248H with greater alcohol consumption, and this higher prevalence raises the possibility that the allele might ameliorate the toxicity of alcohol. Our results suggest that alcohol but not dietary iron contributes to higher body iron stores in African Americans. Studies with larger numbers of participants are needed to further clarify the relationship of ferroportin Q248H with the toxicity of alcohol consumption.
PMCID: PMC3369540  PMID: 18782341
9.  Distinct Clinical and Immunologic Profiles in Severe Malarial Anemia and Cerebral Malaria in Zambia 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(2):211-219.
Background. The mechanisms of severe malarial anemia and cerebral malaria, which are extreme manifestations of Plasmodium falciparum malaria, are not fully understood.
Methods. Children aged <6 years from southern Zambia presenting to the hospital with severe malarial anemia (n = 72), cerebral malaria (n = 28), or uncomplicated malaria (n = 66) were studied prospectively. Children with overlapping severe anemia and cerebral malaria were excluded.
Results. Low interleukin 10 concentrations had the strongest association with severe anemia (standard β = .61; P < .001) followed by high tumor necrosis factor α and sFas concentrations, low weight-for-age z scores, presence of stool parasites, and splenomegaly (standard β = .15–.25; P ≤ .031); most of these factors were also associated with lower reticulocytes. Greater parasitemia was associated with higher interleukin 10 and tumor necrosis factor α concentrations, whereas sulfadoxizole/pyrimethamine therapy and lower weight-for-age z scores were associated with lower interleukin 10 levels. Thrombocytopenia and elevated tissue plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 levels had the strongest associations with cerebral malaria (standard β = .37 or .36; P < .0001), followed by exposure to traditional herbal medicine and hemoglobinuria (standard β = .21–.31; P ≤ .006).
Conclusions. Predictors of severe malarial anemia (altered immune responses, poor nutrition, intestinal parasites, and impaired erythropoiesis) differed from those of cerebral malaria (thrombocytopenia, herbal medicine, and intravascular hemolysis). Improved preventive and therapeutic measures may need to consider these differences.
PMCID: PMC3071068  PMID: 21288821
10.  Association of G6PD202A,376G with lower haemoglobin concentration but not increased haemolysis in patients with sickle cell anaemia 
British journal of haematology  2010;150(2):218-225.
The genetic bases of the highly variable degrees of anaemia and haemolysis in persons with Hb SS are not fully known, but several studies have indicated that G6PD deficiency is not a factor. The G6PD202A and G6PD376G alleles and α-thalassaemia were determined by molecular genetic testing in 261 children and adolescents with Hb SS in a multicentre study. G6PD202A,376G (G6PD A-) was defined as hemizygosity for both alleles in males and homozygosity in females. Among the participants 41% were receiving hydroxycarbamide.
The prevalence of G6PD202A,376G was 13.6% in males and 3.3% in females with an overall prevalence of 8.7%. G6PD202A,376G was associated with a 10 g/l decrease in haemoglobin concentration (P=0.008) but not with increased haemolysis as measured by lactate dehydrogenase, bilirubin, aspartate-aminotransferase, reticulocyte count or a haemolytic component derived from these markers (P>0.09). Similar results were found within a sub-group of children who were not receiving hydroxycarbamide. By comparison, single and double α-globin deletions were associated with progressively higher haemoglobin concentrations (P=0.005 for trend), progressively lower values for haemolytic component (P=0.007), and increased severe pain episodes (P<0.001).
In conclusion, G6PD202A,376G may be associated with lower haemoglobin concentration in sickle cell anaemia by a mechanism other than increased haemolysis.
PMCID: PMC2906678  PMID: 20507315
sickle cell anaemia; G6PD; haemolysis; alpha-thalassaemia; haemoglobin concentration
British journal of haematology  2010;150(1):102-107.
N-terminal (NT) pro-brain natriuretic peptide (proBNP) ≥160 ng/l has a 78% positive predictive value for pulmonary hypertension and is associated with increased mortality in US sickle cell disease patients, but the importance in sickle cell disease patients in Africa is not known. In a cross-sectional study at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika-Zaria, Nigeria, we studied 133 hydroxycarbamide-naïve Nigerian sickle cell anaemia patients aged 18-52 years at steady-state and 65 healthy controls. Twenty-six percent of patients versus 5% of controls had NT-proBNP ≥160 ng/l (P=0.0006). By logistic regression among the patients, human immunodeficiency virus seropositivity, higher serum ferritin and lower haemoglobin or higher lactate dehydrogenase independently predicted elevated NT-proBNP. After adjustment for haemoglobin concentration, elevated NT-proBNP concentration was associated with an estimated 7.8-fold increase in the odds of severe functional impairment, defined as an inability to walk more than 300 m in six min (95% confidence interval 1.5-32.6; P=0.005). Similarly, elevated tricuspid regurgitation velocity was associated with an estimated 5.6-fold increase in the odds of functional impairment (95% confidence interval 1.5-21.0; P=0.011). In conclusion, NT-proBNP elevation is common and is associated with markers of anaemia, inflammation and iron status and with severe functional impairment among sickle cell anaemia patients in Nigeria.
PMCID: PMC2907438  PMID: 20408845
sickle cell disease; N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide; six-minute walk; haemolysis; Africa
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection may be associated with thrombocytopenia and increased iron stores in patients receiving medical care. We aimed to determine how often changes in hematologic, iron metabolic and inflammatory markers occur in individuals with undiagnosed HCV in the community.
Inner-city African Americans (n=143) were recruited from the community according to reported ingestion of alcohol. They were divided broadly into those who drank more or less than 56 g alcohol/day as assessed by dietary questionnaire. HCV serology was determined and laboratory values were compared according to HCV seropositivity in analyses that adjusted for alcohol consumption.
The prevalence of HCV seropositivity was 23% among men and 29% among women. Levels of hepatocellular enzymes were higher with HCV seropositivity (P <0.0001) but hemoglobin concentrations, white blood cell and platelet counts and serum ferritin concentrations did not differ. The globulin fraction of the serum protein concentration (P=0.002) was increased with HCV seropositivity as expected with chronic inflammation. However, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and serum iron and haptoglobin levels did not differ significantly according to HCV status. Furthermore, multivariate analysis revealed that C-reactive protein was decreased and transferrin concentration was increased with both HCV and alcohol consumption (P<0.014).
Previously undiagnosed HCV seropositivity has little effect on the complete blood count and body iron stores but appears to perturb the response to an inflammatory stimulus, causing reduced rather than increased circulating CRP concentrations and increased rather than decreased transferrin concentrations.
PMCID: PMC2847047  PMID: 20117104
HCV infection; African American; CRP; Iron metabolism
13.  Altered cytokine profiles in patients with Chuvash polycythemia 
American journal of hematology  2009;84(2):74-78.
Chuvash polycythemia results from a homozygous 598C>T mutation in exon 3 of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene. This disrupts the normoxia pathway for degrading hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α and HIF-2α causing altered expression of HIF-1 and HIF-2 inducible genes. As hypoxia induces expression of proinflammatory cytokines, we hypothesized that there might be an elevation of Th1 cytokines in the setting of Chuvash polycythemia. We analyzed plasma concentrations of Th1 (interleukins-2 and 12, interferon-γ, granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor, tumor necrosis factor-α) and Th2 cytokines (interleukins-4, 5, 10, and 13) using the Bio-Plex multiplex suspension array system in 34 VHL598C>T homozygotes and 32 VHL wild-type participants from Chuvashia. Concentrations of all the Th1 and Th2 cytokines measured were elevated in the VHL598C>T homozygotes compared with the control wild-type participants, but the ratios of Th1 to Th2 cytokines did not differ by genotype. In parallel, peripheral blood concentrations of CD4 positive T-helper cells and CD4/CD8 ratio were lower in the VHL598C>T homozygotes. In conclusion, the up-regulated hypoxic response in Chuvash polycythemia is associated with increased plasma products of both the Th1 and Th2 pathways, but the balance between the two pathways seems to be preserved.
PMCID: PMC2857756  PMID: 19062180
14.  Elevated homocysteine, glutathione and cysteinylglycine concentrations in patients homozygous for the Chuvash polycythemia VHL mutation 
Haematologica  2008;93(2):279-282.
In Chuvash polycythemia, homozygous von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) 598C>T leads to increased hypoxia inducible factor-1α and 2α, thromboses and lower systemic blood pressures. Circulating homocysteine, glutathione, γ-glutamyltransferase and cysteinylglycine concentrations were higher in 34 VHL598C>T homozygotes than in 37 normal controls and cysteine was lower. Multivariate analysis showed elevated homocysteine independently associated with higher mean systemic blood pressures and elevated glutathione was associated with lower pressures to a similar degree. Among VHL598C>T homozygotes, homocysteine was elevated with low and normal folate concentrations, consistent with a possible defect in the remethylation pathway. The elevated glutathione and γ-glutamyltranserase levels correlated positively with cysteinylglycine, consistent with possible upregulation of a glutathione synthetic enzyme and γ-glutamyltransferase. Cysteinylglycine correlated inversely with cysteine, consistent with possible reduced cysteinyldipeptidase activity. We conclude that up-regulated hypoxia-sensing may influence multiple steps in thiol metabolism. The effects of the resultant elevated levels of homocysteine and glutathione on systemic blood pressure may largely balance each other out.
PMCID: PMC2852873  PMID: 18223282
VHL; polycythemia; homocysteine; folate; glutathione
15.  Prospective evaluation of haemoglobin oxygen saturation at rest and after exercise in paediatric sickle cell disease patients 
British journal of haematology  2009;147(3):352-359.
Low steady state haemoglobin oxygen saturation in patients with sickle cell anaemia has been associated with the degree of anaemia and haemolysis. How much pulmonary dysfunction contributes to low saturation is not clear. In a prospective study of children and adolescents with sickle cell disease aged 3–20 years at steady state and matched controls, 52% of 391 patients versus 24% of 63 controls had steady state oxygen saturation <99% (P < 0·0001), 9% of patients versus no controls had saturation <95% (P = 0·008) and 8% of patients versus no controls had exercise-induced reduction in saturation ≥3%. Decreasing haemoglobin concentration (P ≤ 0·001) and increasing haemolysis (P ≤ 0·003) but not pulmonary function tests were independent predictors of both lower steady-state saturation and exercise-induced reduction in saturation. Neither history of stroke nor history of acute chest syndrome was significantly associated with lower steady-state oxygen saturation or exercise-induced reduction in saturation. Tricuspid regurgitation velocity was higher in patients with lower steady state haemoglobin oxygen saturation (P = 0·003) and with greater decline in oxygen saturation during the six-minute walk (P = 0·022). In conclusion, lower haemoglobin oxygen saturation is independently associated with increasing degrees of anaemia and haemolysis but not pulmonary function abnormalities among children and adolescents with sickle cell disease.
PMCID: PMC2769929  PMID: 19694721
sickle cell disease; paediatric; oxygen saturation; six-minute walk; pulmonary hypertension
16.  Genetic determinants of haemolysis in sickle cell anaemia 
British journal of haematology  2013;161(2):270-278.
Haemolytic anaemia is variable among patients with sickle cell anaemia and can be estimated by reticulocyte count, lactate dehydrogenase, aspartate aminotransferase and bilirubin levels. Using principal component analysis of these measurements we computed a haemolytic score that we used as a subphenotype in a genome-wide association study. We identified in one cohort and replicated in two additional cohorts the association of a single nucleotide polymorphism in NPRL3 (rs7203560; chr16p13·3) (P = 6·04 × 10−07). This association was validated by targeted genotyping in a fourth independent cohort. The HBA1/HBA2 regulatory elements, hypersensitive sites (HS)-33, HS-40 and HS-48 are located in introns of NPRL3. Rs7203560 was in perfect linkage disequilibrium (LD) with rs9926112 (r2 = 1) and in strong LD with rs7197554 (r2 = 0·75) and rs13336641 (r2 = 0·77); the latter is located between HS-33 and HS-40 sites and next to a CTCF binding site. The minor allele for rs7203560 was associated with the −∝3·7thalassaemia gene deletion. When adjusting for HbF and ∝ thalassaemia, the association of NPRL3 with the haemolytic score was significant (P = 0·00375) and remained significant when examining only cases without gene deletion∝ thalassaemia (P = 0·02463). Perhaps by independently down-regulating expression of the HBA1/HBA2 genes, variants of the HBA1/HBA2 gene regulatory loci, tagged by rs7203560, reduce haemolysis in sickle cell anaemia.
PMCID: PMC4129543  PMID: 23406172
haemolysis; sickle cell anaemia; haemolytic anaemia; genetic analysis; thalassaemia
17.  Risk Factors for Death in 632 Patients with Sickle Cell Disease in the United States and United Kingdom 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e99489.
The role of pulmonary hypertension as a cause of mortality in sickle cell disease (SCD) is controversial.
Methods and Results
We evaluated the relationship between an elevated estimated pulmonary artery systolic pressure and mortality in patients with SCD. We followed patients from the walk-PHaSST screening cohort for a median of 29 months. A tricuspid regurgitation velocity (TRV)≥3.0 m/s cuttof, which has a 67–75% positive predictive value for mean pulmonary artery pressure ≥25 mm Hg was used. Among 572 subjects, 11.2% had TRV≥3.0 m/sec. Among 582 with a measured NT-proBNP, 24.1% had values ≥160 pg/mL. Of 22 deaths during follow-up, 50% had a TRV≥3.0 m/sec. At 24 months the cumulative survival was 83% with TRV≥3.0 m/sec and 98% with TRV<3.0 m/sec (p<0.0001). The hazard ratios for death were 11.1 (95% CI 4.1–30.1; p<0.0001) for TRV≥3.0 m/sec, 4.6 (1.8–11.3; p = 0.001) for NT-proBNP≥160 pg/mL, and 14.9 (5.5–39.9; p<0.0001) for both TRV≥3.0 m/sec and NT-proBNP≥160 pg/mL. Age >47 years, male gender, chronic transfusions, WHO class III–IV, increased hemolytic markers, ferritin and creatinine were also associated with increased risk of death.
A TRV≥3.0 m/sec occurs in approximately 10% of individuals and has the highest risk for death of any measured variable.
The study is registered in with identifier
PMCID: PMC4079316  PMID: 24988120
18.  Association Between Celiac Disease and Iron Deficiency in Caucasians, but not Non-Caucasians 
Background & Aims
Celiac disease is an increasingly recognized disorder in Caucasian populations of European origin. Little is known about its prevalence in non-Caucasians. Although it is thought to be a cause of iron deficiency anemia, little is known about the extent to which celiac disease contributes to iron deficiency in Caucasians, and especially non-Caucasians. We analyzed samples collected from participants in the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) study to identify individuals with iron deficiency and assess the frequency of celiac disease.
We analyzed serum samples from white men (25 y old or older) and women (50 y old or older) who participated the HEIRS study; cases were defined as individuals with iron deficiency (serum level of ferritin ≤12 mg/L) and controls were those without (serum level of ferritin >100 mg/L in men and >50 mg/L in women). All samples were also analyzed for human recombinant tissue transglutaminase immunoglobulin A; positive results were confirmed by an assay for endomysial antibodies. Patients with positive results from both celiac disease tests were presumed to have untreated celiac disease, and those with a positive result from only 1 test were excluded from analysis. We analyzed HLA genotypes and frequencies of celiac disease between Caucasians and non-Caucasians with iron deficiency.
Celiac disease occurred in 14 of 567 of cases (2.5%) and in only 1 of 1136 controls (0.1%; Fisher’s exact test, P=1.92 × 10−6). Celiac disease was more common in Caucasian cases (14/363, 4%) than non-Caucasian cases (0/204; P=.003). Only 1 Caucasian control and no non-Caucasian controls had celiac disease. The odds of celiac disease in individuals with iron deficiency was 28-fold (95% confidence interval, 3.7–212.8) that of controls; 13/14 cases with celiac disease carried the DQ2.5 variant of the HLA genotype.
Celiac disease is associated with iron deficiency of Caucasians. Celiac disease is rare among non-Caucasians—even among individuals with features of celiac disease, such as iron deficiency. Celiac disease is also rare among individuals without iron deficiency. Men and post-menopausal women with iron deficiency should be tested for celiac disease.
PMCID: PMC3843318  PMID: 23416278
SNP; risk factor; gluten allergy; intestine; absorption
19.  Neutrophil AKT2 regulates heterotypic cell-cell interactions during vascular inflammation 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(4):1483-1496.
Interactions between platelets, leukocytes, and activated endothelial cells are important during microvascular occlusion; however, the regulatory mechanisms of these heterotypic cell-cell interactions remain unclear. Here, using intravital microscopy to evaluate mice lacking specific isoforms of the serine/threonine kinase AKT and bone marrow chimeras, we found that hematopoietic cell–associated AKT2 is important for neutrophil adhesion and crawling and neutrophil-platelet interactions on activated endothelial cells during TNF-α–induced venular inflammation. Studies with an AKT2-specific inhibitor and cells isolated from WT and Akt KO mice revealed that platelet- and neutrophil-associated AKT2 regulates heterotypic neutrophil-platelet aggregation under shear conditions. In particular, neutrophil AKT2 was critical for membrane translocation of αMβ2 integrin, β2-talin1 interaction, and intracellular Ca2+ mobilization. We found that the basal phosphorylation levels of AKT isoforms were markedly increased in neutrophils and platelets isolated from patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), an inherited hematological disorder associated with vascular inflammation and occlusion. AKT2 inhibition reduced heterotypic aggregation of neutrophils and platelets isolated from SCD patients and diminished neutrophil adhesion and neutrophil-platelet aggregation in SCD mice, thereby improving blood flow rates. Our results provide evidence that neutrophil AKT2 regulates αMβ2 integrin function and suggest that AKT2 is important for neutrophil recruitment and neutrophil-platelet interactions under thromboinflammatory conditions such as SCD.
PMCID: PMC3973084  PMID: 24642468
20.  Hereditary hemochromatosis: insights from the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study 
Hemochromatosis comprises a group of inherited disorders resulting from mutations of genes involved in regulating iron metabolism. The multicenter, multi-ethnic Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study screened ~100,000 participants in the US and Canada, testing for HFE mutations, serum ferritin and transferrin saturation. As in other studies, HFE C282Y homozygosity was common in Caucasians but rare in other ethnic groups, and there was a marked heterogeneity of disease expression in C282Y homozygotes. Nevertheless, this genotype was often associated with elevations of serum ferritin and transferrin saturation and with iron stores of more than four grams in men but not in women. If liver biopsy was performed, in some cases because of evidence of hepatic dysfunction, fibrosis or cirrhosis was often found. Combined elevations of serum ferritin and transferrin saturation were observed in non-C282Y homozygotes of all ethnic groups, most prominently Asians, but not often with iron stores of more than four grams. Future studies to discover modifier genes that affect phenotypic expression in C282Y hemochromatosis should help identify patients who are at greatest risk of developing iron overload and who may benefit from continued monitoring of iron status to detect progressive iron loading.
PMCID: PMC3829617  PMID: 20008199
21.  Heritability of Serum Iron Measures in the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Family Study 
American journal of hematology  2010;85(2):10.1002/ajh.21585.
Heritability is the proportion of observed variation in a trait among individuals in a population that is attributable to hereditary factors. The HEIRS Family Study estimated heritability of serum iron measures. Probands were HFE C282Y homozygotes or non-C282Y homozygotes with elevated transferrin saturation (TS > 50%, men; TS > 45%, women) and serum ferritin concentration (SF > 300 μg/L, men; SF > 200 μg/L, women). Heritability (h2) was estimated by variance component analysis of TS, natural logarithm (ln) of SF, and unsaturated iron-binding capacity (UIBC). Participants (N=942) were 77% Caucasians, 10% Asians, 8% Hispanics, and 5% other race/ethnicities. Average age (SD) was 49 (16) y; 57% were female. For HFE C282Y homozygote probands and their family members, excluding variation due to HFE C282Y and H63D genotype and measured demographic and environmental factors, the residual h2 (SE) was 0.21 (0.07) for TS, 0.37 (0.08) for ln SF, and 0.34 (0.08) for UIBC (all P < 0.0004 for comparisons with zero). For the non-C282Y homozygote proband group, residual h2 was significant with a value of 0.64 (0.26) for ln SF (p=0.0096). In conclusion, serum iron measures have significant heritability components, after excluding known genetic and non-genetic sources of variation.
PMCID: PMC3816512  PMID: 20095037
HFE; familial aggregation; transferrin saturation; serum ferritin concentration
22.  Sickle cell disease is associated with decreased HIV but higher HBV and HCV comorbidities in US hospital discharge records: a cross-sectional study 
Sexually transmitted infections  2012;88(7):528-533.
Some studies suggest that HIV infection progresses slowly in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). The authors aimed to determine the relationships between SCD and HIV infection.
National Hospital Discharge Survey data from adult Africane–Americans in the period of 1997–2009 were analysed. The comorbidities of SCD with HIV infections in hospital discharges were analysed. Multiple logistic regression was used to test the association between SCD and HIV. For comparative purposes, the relationships of SCD with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) were also assessed.
423 431 records were divided into two time periods 1997–2003 (53% of records) and 2004–2009 (47% of records). The frequency of HIV diagnosis was lower in patients with SCD (1.5% vs 3.3% in patients without SCD). In logistic regression, SCD diagnosis was associated with an OR of 0.24 (95% CI 0.18 to 0.32) for HIV diagnosis in the first period and with an OR of 0.31 (95% CI 0.22 to 0.42) in the second period. In contrast, SCD was associated with higher risk of HCV (OR=2.01, 95% CI 1.56 to 2.59 in the first period and OR=2.12, 95% CI 1.71 to 2.63 in the second period). SCD was also associated with a higher risk of HBV (OR=1.15, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.83 in the first period and OR=1.82, 95% CI 1.24 to 2.68 in the second period).
The lower risk of HIV comorbidity, but not HCV and HBV, with SCD is consistent with the possibility that SCD has a unique effect in altering the risk of HIV infection or progression. Investigation of how the haemolytic and immunological changes of SCD influence HIV might lead to new therapeutic or preventive approaches.
PMCID: PMC3456988  PMID: 22628662
23.  Could Hypoxia increase the prevalence of thrombotic complications in Polycythemia Vera? 
Thromboses represent a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Polycythemia Vera (PV) but the contributing mechanisms are not fully described.
Patients and methods
To evaluate whether environmental conditions such as altitude/hypoxia could impact thromboses history, we retrospectively analyzed thrombosis history in 71 PV patients living at an elevation of 5,000 feet or more in the SLC area (SLC) and 166 PV patients living near sea level in the Baltimore area (BLM). The SLC cohort was older with a longer disease duration. No significant differences in type of anticoagulation therapy or prothrombotic factors were present between the two cohorts. After adjusting for age, sex and disease duration, SLC patients experienced an estimated 3.9-fold increase in the odds of a history of thromboses compared to BLM patients (95% confidence interval 1.8-7.6; p = 0.0004). A history of cardiovascular event was present in 58% of the SLC patients compared to 27% of the BLM patients (p<0.0001). Before diagnosis thromboses occurred in 18% and 4% of the SLC and BLM groups respectively (p =0.003). No correlation between JAK2V617F allele burden and thrombosis was observed in this study.
This retrospective study suggests that even moderate hypoxia associated with 5,000 feet elevation should be considered as independent prothrombotic risk factor. This observation needs to be confirmed by prospective studies.
PMCID: PMC3796441  PMID: 23392352
24.  Development of a Sensitive HPLC Method to Measure In-Vitro Permeability of E- and Z-Isomeric Forms of Thiosemicarbazones in Caco-2 Monolayers 
In the current study, we developed a HPLC method to quantitatively measure the permeability of the BpT-based chelators, 2-benzoylpyridine 4-ethyl-3-thiosemicarbazone (Bp4eT) and 2-benzoylpyridine 4-allyl-3-thiosemicarbazone (Bp4aT), across human colorectal adenocarcinoma (Caco-2) monolayers as a model of gut absorption. In aqueous solution, Bp4eT and Bp4aT formed inter-convertible Z and E isomers that were resolved by HPLC. Peak area was linear with respect to chelator concentration. Acceptable within-day and between-day precision (<22%) and accuracy (85–115% of true values) were obtained over a range of 1.0 – 100 µM for Bp4eT and 1.5 – 300 µM for Bp4aT. Limits of detection were 0.3 µM and 1 µM for Bp4eT and Bp4aT, respectively, while corresponding limits of quantification were 1 µM and 5 µM. Both chelators showed significant ability to chelate iron in THP-1 cells using a calcein-based assay and no apparent cytotoxicity was observed within 24 h. Ratios of the apical to basolateral and basolateral to apical transport for Bp4eT were 1.10 and 0.89 at 100 µM and 300 µM respectively, indicating equal bi-directional movement of the compounds. Similarly, ratios were 0.77 and 0.92 for Bp4aT, respectively. This study demonstrates that Bp4eT and Bp4aT can be efficiently transported through Caco-2 cells and can potentially be formulated for oral delivery.
PMCID: PMC3457786  PMID: 22954966
25.  Bivariate mixture modeling of transferrin saturation and serum ferritin concentration in Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, and whites in the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study 
Bivariate mixture modeling was used to analyze joint population distributions of transferrin saturation (TS) and serum ferritin concentration (SF) measured in the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study. Four components (C1, C2, C3, and C4) with successively age-adjusted increasing means for TS and SF were identified in data from 26,832 African Americans, 12,620 Asians, 12,264 Hispanics, and 43,254 whites. The largest component, C2, had normal mean TS (21% to 26% for women, 29% to 30% for men) and SF (43–82 μg/L for women, 165–242 μg/L for men), which consisted of component proportions greater than 0.59 for women and greater than 0.68 for men. C3 and C4 had progressively greater mean values for TS and SF with progressively lesser component proportions. C1 had mean TS values less than 16% for women (<20% for men) and SF values less than 28 μg/L for women (<47 μg/L for men). Compared with C2, adjusted odds of iron deficiency were significantly greater in C1 (14.9–47.5 for women, 60.6–3530 for men), adjusted odds of liver disease were significantly greater in C3 and C4 for African-American women and all men, and adjusted odds of any HFE mutation were increased in C3 (1.4–1.8 for women, 1.2–1.9 for men) and in C4 for Hispanic and white women (1.5 and 5.2, respectively) and men (2.8 and 4.7, respectively). Joint mixture modeling identifies a component with lesser SF and TS at risk for iron deficiency and 2 components with greater SF and TS at risk for liver disease or HFE mutations. This approach can identify populations in which hereditary or acquired factors influence metabolism measurement.
PMCID: PMC3785302  PMID: 18201677

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