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Biophys J. 1998 Sep;75(3):1584-97.

Simulations of the erythrocyte cytoskeleton at large deformation. II. Micropipette aspiration.

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University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6315, USA.


Coarse-grained molecular models of the erythrocyte membrane's spectrin cytoskeleton are presented in Monte Carlo simulations of whole cells in micropipette aspiration. The nonlinear chain elasticity and sterics revealed in more microscopic cytoskeleton models (developed in a companion paper; Boey et al., 1998. Biophys. J. 75:1573-1583) are faithfully represented here by two- and three-body effective potentials. The number of degrees of freedom of the system are thereby reduced to a range that is computationally tractable. Three effective models for the triangulated cytoskeleton are developed: two models in which the cytoskeleton is stress-free and does or does not have internal attractive interactions, and a third model in which the cytoskeleton is prestressed in situ. These are employed in direct, finite-temperature simulations of erythrocyte deformation in a micropipette. All three models show reasonable agreement with aspiration measurements made on flaccid human erythrocytes, but the prestressed model alone yields optimal agreement with fluorescence imaging experiments. Ensemble-averaging of nonaxisymmetrical, deformed structures exhibiting anisotropic strain are thus shown to provide an answer to the basic question of how a triangulated mesh such as that of the red cell cytoskeleton deforms in experiment.

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