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Biophys J. 1990 Apr;57(4):877-82.

Alterations of the apparent area expansivity modulus of red blood cell membrane by electric fields.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642.


Red blood cell membrane exhibits a large resistance to changes in surface area. This resistance is characterized by the area expansivity modulus K, which relates the isotropic membrane force resultant, T, to the fractional change in membrane surface area delta A/Ao. The experimental technique commonly used to determine K is micropipette aspiration. Using this method, E. A. Evans and R. Waugh (1977, Biophys. J. 20:307-313) obtained a value of 450 dyn/cm for the modulus. In the present report, it is shown that the value of K, as determined using this method, is affected by electric potential differences applied across the tip of the pipette. Using Ag-AgCl electrodes and current clamping electronics, we obtained values for K ranging from 150 dyn/cm with -1.0 V applied, to 1,500 dyn/cm with 1.0 V applied. At 0.0 V the modulus obtained was approximately 500 dyn/cm. A reversible, voltage- and pressure-dependent change in the cell volume probably accounts for the effect of the voltage on the calculated value of the modulus. The use of lanthanum chloride or increasing the extra- and intracellular solute concentrations reduced the voltage dependence of the measurements. It was also found that when dissimilar metals were used to "ground" the pipette to the chamber to prevent lysis of cells by static charge, values for K ranged from 121 to 608 dyn/cm. Based on measurements made at zero applied volts, in the presence of 0.4 mM lanthanum and at high solute concentration, we conclude that the true value of the modulus is approximately 500 dyn/cm.

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