Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2021-04-29, 10:37 authored by Panae NoomunaPanae Noomuna
While the molecular defect that cause sickle cell disease has well been established, the cause of vaso-occlusive crisis remains elusive and largely debated upon. Majority of studies have linked the painful episodes to polymerization of sickle hemoglobin following its deoxygenation. The variability of the disease symptoms among patients, compounds efforts for a holistic therapy. Hydroxyurea, a stimulator of Hb F induction and a widely used treatment, has ameliorated the complication of SCD but it is only effective in 50% of the patients. Expression of Hb F lowers the content of Hb S in blood and hence reduces oxidative stress caused by Hb S denaturation. Sickle cell disease severity depends on several factors. Most importantly, the ability of red cell to sickle dominates all other determinants. While deoxygenation of sickle hemoglobin may be inevitable, the duration with which the red cell remains in the deoxygenated state can be manipulated. Deoxygenation is a transient process that when compared to the time taken to develop the long filaments of deoxyhemoglobin to causes severe sickling, the red cell would have been cycled back to the lungs and re-oxygenated to restore the healthy conditions of the cell. In fact, if sickle cells would flow as fast as healthy erythrocytes, the detrimental impacts of sickling such as vaso-occlusive crisis, would not be a concern for this disease. Unfortunately, the unstable sickle hemoglobin undergoes denaturation through auto-oxidation, which imposes oxidative stress to the cells. The oxidative stress inhibits erythrocytes tyrosine phosphatases, a course which subsequently impair their constitutive action against the tyrosine kinases. In the end, a net tyrosine phosphorylation state in the red cell membrane proteins, most notably the transmembrane protein band 3, succeeds. Band 3 tyrosine phosphorylation abrogates the protein’s interaction with ankyrin and spectrin-actin cytoskeleton, hence the cytoskeleton loses its major anchorage to the membrane thus engendering membrane destabilization. A destabilized erythrocyte sheds membrane fragments in form of microvesicles/microparticles and discharges free hemoglobin into the extra cellular matrix. In consequence, the microparticles power initiation of coagulation cascade through activation of thrombin, while free Hb inflicts inflammation, scavenges nitric oxide which is necessary for vasodilation and induces further oxidative stress within the microvasculature, and activates expression of adhesion receptors on the endothelium. Taken together, these events culminate in entrapment of red cells (not naming leucocytes and platelets) in the microvasculature, blockade of blood vessels and further damage of erythrocytes through prolonged deoxygenated state thus terminating in tissue injury, strokes, and organ damage, amid vaso-occlusive episodes which always require hospitalization and extensive medical care for survival. Band 3 tyrosine phosphorylation and membrane weakening is not unique just to SCD, but also a druggable target for malaria. Malaria, a disease that is touted as the evolutionary cause of sickle cell disease, surprisingly thrives through the same mechanism. Briefly, malaria parasite consumes hemoglobin for its DNA synthesis, and in the process generate reactive oxygen species from denatured hemoglobin that feeds into the oxidative stress which triggers band 3 tyrosine phosphorylation. In this case however, a destabilized membrane offers perfect conditions for merozoites’ (malaria daughter parasites) egress/exit out of the cell to begin infecting other red cells. Ultimately, the ensuing anemia and organ dysfunction leads to patient’s death. Treatment of diseased cells with imatinib and other Syk inhibitors effectively reversed membrane weakening. A stabilized membrane not only survives longer in circulation to alleviate SCD symptoms but also traps and starves malaria parasite leading to termination of the parasitic infection. With band 3 tyrosine phosphorylation at center stage, this dissertation explores the above events in an effort to unveil a novel therapy for sickle cell and malaria diseases. First, the therapeutic strategy regarding SCD is discussed in detail beginning with non-transfused patients and ending in additional mechanistic study on inactivation of the principal erythrocyte’s protein tyrosine phosphatase 1 B, PTP1B. The dissertation then provides an initial proof of concept on efficacy of imatinib in treatment of malaria as a monotherapy and its efficacy when used in a triple combination therapy with the standard of care treatment. Finally, I outline an alternative possible mechanism of action of quinine against malaria.


NIH grants R01GM24417-40 (to Prof. Philip S. Low)


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Chemistry

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Philip S. Low

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Greg M. Michalski

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Angeline M. Lyon

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Kavita Shah