Methemoglobinemia and ascorbate deficiency in hemoglobin E β thalassemia: metabolic and clinical implications.
Allen A., Fisher C., Premawardhena A., Bandara D., Perera A., Allen S., St Pierre T., Olivieri N., Weatherall D.
During investigations of the phenotypic diversity of hemoglobin (Hb) E β thalassemia, a patient was encountered with persistently high levels of methemoglobin associated with a left-shift in the oxygen dissociation curve, profound ascorbate deficiency, and clinical features of scurvy; these abnormalities were corrected by treatment with vitamin C. Studies of erythropoietin production before and after treatment suggested that, as in an ascorbate-deficient murine model, the human hypoxia induction factor pathway is not totally dependent on ascorbate levels. A follow-up study of 45 patients with HbE β thalassemia showed that methemoglobin levels were significantly increased and that there was also a significant reduction in plasma ascorbate levels. Haptoglobin levels were significantly reduced, and the high frequency of the 2.2 haptoglobin genotype may place an additional pressure on ascorbate as a free-radical scavenger in this population. There was, in addition, a highly significant correlation between methemoglobin levels, splenectomy, and factors that modify the degree of globin-chain imbalance. Because methemoglobin levels are modified by several mechanisms and may play a role in both adaptation to anemia and vascular damage, there is a strong case for its further study in other forms of thalassemia and sickle-cell anemia, particularly when splenic function is defective.