Background. The pathogenesis of posttransplant erythrocytosis (PTE) has been elusive. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) are efficacious in lowering the hematocrit of patients with PTE and angiotensin II (AII) type I receptors (AT1R) were recently detected on red blood ceil precursors, burst-forming unit-erythroid- (BFU-E) derived cells. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is increased expression of the AT1R on BFU-E-derived cells of patients with PTE, which might contribute to the pathogenesis of PTE. Methods. Twelve healthy volunteers and 25 transplant recipients (13 patients with and 12 without PTE) were studied. BFU-E from peripheral blood were cultured in methylcellulose and BFU-E-derived colonies were harvested on day 10. Western blotting was used to detect AT1R and erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) expression. Intracellular free calcium in response to AII and erythropoietin (Epo) was measured with digital video imaging. Results. There were no differences between transplant patients, with and without PTE, with respect to weight, age, sex, blood pressure, serum creatinine, circulating renin, angiotensin II, and Epo levels. Hematocrit, red blood cell number, BFU-E-derived colony number, and size were significantly increased in PTE compared with other two groups. AT1R expression was increased by 44% on the erythroid progenitors of PTE versus non posttransplant erythrocytosis patients and by 32% in PTE patients versus normal volunteers. AT1R expression correlated significantly with the hematocrit in PTE (Spearman r=6.68, P=0.01). In contrast, EpoR expression was equivalent in all groups. The AT1R was functional since a significant increase in [Ca(i)] was observed in Fura-2 loaded day 10 cells when stimulated with AII (182%, P<0.0001). Conclusion. An increase in AT1R density was observed in erythroid precursors of transplant patients with PTE compared to those without PTE and normal volunteers, and the level of AT1R expression in PTE correlated significantly with the hematocrit. In contrast, EpoR expression was not different in PTE compared with non posttransplant erythrocytosis or normal controls. This study supports a role for the AT1 receptor signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of PTE.
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