Li NMR Study of Normal Human Erythrocytes


J.W. Pettegrew, J.F.M. Post, K. Panchalingam, G. Withers, D.E Woessner

Laboratory of Neurophysics, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA

Deparmment ofMedicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA

Mobil Research and Development Corporation, DRL, Dallas, Texas 75244, USA


The biological action of lithium is of great interest because of the therapeutic efficacy of the cation in manic-depressive illness. To investigate possible molecular interactions of lithium, 7Li NMR studies were conducted on normal human erythrocytes which had been incubated with lithium chloride. The uptake of lithium ions was followed by 7Li NMR, using a dysprosium, tripolyphosphate shift reagent. Lithium uptake followed single-exponential kinetics with a time constant of 14.7 h. The intracellular lithium relaxation times were T1⋍ 5s and T2⋍ 0.15s, which implies a lengthening of the lithium correlation time. It was found that lithium does not interact significantly with hemoglobin, the erythrocyte membrane, or artificial phospholipid membranes. Based on measurements of lithium T1 and T2 in concentrated agar gels, the large difference between T1 and T2 for intracellular lithium ions may be due to diffusion of the hydrated lithium ion through heterogeneous electrostatic field gradients created by the erythrocyte membrane-associated cytoskeletal network. Lithium binding to the membrane-associated cytoskeleton, however, cannot be ruled out. Because of the large differences between T1 and T2 of intracellular lithium ions, 1Li NMR may be a sensitive and promising noninvasive method to probe the intracellular environment.

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