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Distribution of lead-203 in human peripheral blood in vitro.
  1. C N Ong,
  2. W R Lee


    In-vitro experiments using 203Pb were performed to identify the lead binding components in human peripheral blood. The distribution of lead in plasma, in the red cell membrane, and within the red cell was also investigated. Studies of the distribution of 203Pb in whole blood showed that at a lead concentration of 2.45 mumol/l (50 micrograms/100 ml) about 94% of lead had been incorporated by the erythrocytes and 6% remained in the plasma. After extraction of lipid by a methanol/chloroform mixture, about 75% of the lead was found to be associated with the protein fraction. The lipid contained about 21% of the 203Pb, the remainder being in the aqueous plasma. SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of blood plasma showed that almost 90% of the 203Pb was present in the albumin fraction; the remainder was likely to be associated with high molecular weight globulins. Several binding sites were identified on the erythrocyte membrane. The high molecular weight component, about 130 000-230 000, was the most important 203Pb binding site. Chemical modification of membrane proteins suggested that the carboxyl groups are the major ligand responsible for most of the lead binding. SH groups of the membrane may have a minor role, but amino groups did not appear to affect the lead binding. The binding of lead to erythrocytes was not confined to membranes, over 80% of lead in blood penetrates into erythrocytes and binds to intracellular components. Gel chromatography of the haemolysate showed that over 90% of the 203Pb was attached to the haemoglobin molecule.

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