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BioMed Research International
Volume 2018, Article ID 9405617, 10 pages
Review Article

Eryptosis: An Erythrocyte’s Suicidal Type of Cell Death

Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence should be addressed to Anna Margaretha Joubert;

Received 16 October 2017; Accepted 14 December 2017; Published 3 January 2018

Academic Editor: Christophe Duranton

Copyright © 2018 Lisa Repsold and Anna Margaretha Joubert. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Erythrocytes play an important role in oxygen and carbon dioxide transport. Although erythrocytes possess no nucleus or mitochondria, they fulfil several metabolic activities namely, the Embden-Meyerhof pathway, as well as the hexose monophosphate shunt. Metabolic processes within the erythrocyte contribute to the morphology/shape of the cell and important constituents are being kept in an active, reduced form. Erythrocytes undergo a form of suicidal cell death called eryptosis. Eryptosis results from a wide variety of contributors including hyperosmolarity, oxidative stress, and exposure to xenobiotics. Eryptosis occurs before the erythrocyte has had a chance to be naturally removed from the circulation after its 120-day lifespan and is characterised by the presence of membrane blebbing, cell shrinkage, and phosphatidylserine exposure that correspond to nucleated cell apoptotic characteristics. After eryptosis is triggered there is an increase in cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) ion levels. This increase causes activation of Ca2+-sensitive potassium (K+) channels which leads to a decrease in intracellular potassium chloride (KCl) and shrinkage of the erythrocyte. Ceramide, produced by sphingomyelinase from the cell membrane’s sphingomyelin, contributes to the occurrence of eryptosis. Eryptosis ensures healthy erythrocyte quantity in circulation whereas excessive eryptosis may set an environment for the clinical presence of pathophysiological conditions including anaemia.