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Biophys J. 1987 Mar;51(3):363-9.

Effects of inherited membrane abnormalities on the viscoelastic properties of erythrocyte membrane.


Several workers have identified molecular abnormalities associated with inherited blood disorders. The present work examines how these alterations in molecular structure affect the viscoelastic properties of the red blood cell membrane. Changes in the membrane shear modulus, the membrane viscosity, and the apparent membrane bending stiffness were observed in cells of eight patients having a variety of disorders: Two had reductions in the number of high-affinity ankyrin binding sites, two had abnormalities associated with the protein band 4.1, and six were known to be deficient in spectrin. The data suggest that the membrane shear modulus is proportional to the density of spectrin on the membrane and support the view that spectrin is primarily responsible for membrane shear elasticity. Although membranes having abnormalities associated with the function of ankyrin or band 4.1 exhibited reduced elasticity, the degree of mechanical dysfunction was quantitatively inconsistent with the extent of the molecular abnormality. This indicates that these skeletal components do not play a primary role in determining membrane shear elasticity. The membrane viscosity was reduced in seven of the eight patients studied. The reduction in viscosity was usually greater than the reduction in shear modulus, but the degree of reduction in viscosity was variable and did not correlate well with the degree of molecular abnormality.

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