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Biophys J. 1997 Mar;72(3):1234-46.

Cytoplasmic pH and human erythrocyte shape.

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Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, California 94305, USA.


Altered external pH transforms human erythrocytes from discocytes to stomatocytes (low pH) or echinocytes (high pH). The mechanism of this transformation is unknown. The preceding companion study (Gedde and Huestis) demonstrated that these shape changes are not mediated by changes in membrane potential, as has been reported. The aim of this study was to identify the physiological properties that mediate this shape change. Red cells were placed in a wide range of physiological states by manipulation of buffer pH, chloride concentration, and osmolality. Morphology and four potential predictor properties (cell pH, membrane potential, cell water, and cell chloride concentration) were assayed. Analysis of the data set by stratification and nonlinear multivariate modeling showed that change in neither cell water nor cell chloride altered the morphology of normal pH cells. In contrast, change in cell pH caused shape change in normal-range membrane potential and cell water cells. The results show that change in cytoplasmic pH is both necessary and sufficient for the shape changes of human erythrocytes equilibrated in altered pH environments.

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