The activities of erythrocyte antioxidative enzymes were measured in two groups of patients with different genotypes of haemoglobin (Hb) H disease: 21 with alpha-thalassaemia 1 or alpha-thalassaemia 2 (alpha-thalassaemia 1/2) and 21 with alpha-thalassaemia 1/Hb Constant Spring (HbCS). They were compared with 21 normal subjects. Both genotypes of Hb H disease had increased activities of erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and catalase when compared with those of controls. Comparison of the two genotypes showed that subjects with alpha-thalassaemia 1/Hb CS, the more severe disease, had higher SOD and GSH-Px activities but lower catalase activity than those with alpha-thalassaemia 1/2. This indicates that there are compensatory mechanisms in Hb H erythrocytes to cope with increased generation of oxygen free radicals as a result of increased excess beta chain.
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