Open Access

Red blood cell shape and deformability in the context of the functional evolution of its membrane structure

Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201217:1

DOI: 10.2478/s11658-012-0001-z

Received: 30 June 2011

Accepted: 12 January 2012

Published: 21 January 2012


It is proposed that it is possible to identify some of the problems that had to be solved in the course of evolution for the red blood cell (RBC) to achieve its present day effectiveness, by studying the behavior of systems featuring different, partial characteristics of its membrane. The appropriateness of the RBC volume to membrane area ratio for its circulation in the blood is interpreted on the basis of an analysis of the shape behavior of phospholipid vesicles. The role of the membrane skeleton is associated with preventing an RBC from transforming into a budded shape, which could form in its absence due to curvature-dependent transmembrane protein-membrane interaction. It is shown that, by causing the formation of echinocytes, the skeleton also acts protectively when, in vesicles with a bilayer membrane, the budded shapes would form due to increasing difference between the areas of their outer and inner layers.

Key words

Red blood cell Vesicle shapes Deformability Membrane skeleton Functional evolution