Open Access

Stress-free state of the red blood cell membrane and the deformation of its skeleton

Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201217:5

DOI: 10.2478/s11658-012-0005-8

Received: 30 June 2011

Accepted: 26 January 2012

Published: 3 February 2012


The response of a red blood cell (RBC) to deformation depends on its membrane, a composite of a lipid bilayer and a skeleton, which is a closed, twodimensional network of spectrin tetramers as its bonds. The deformation of the skeleton and its lateral redistribution are studied in terms of the RBC resting state for a fixed geometry of the RBC, partially aspirated into a micropipette. The geometry of the RBC skeleton in its initial state is taken to be either two concentric circles, a references biconcave shape or a sphere. It is assumed that in its initial state the skeleton is distributed laterally in a homogeneous manner with its bonds either unstressed, presenting its stress-free state, or prestressed. The lateral distribution was calculated using a variational calculation. It was assumed that the spectrin tetramer bonds exhibit a linear elasticity. The results showed a significant effect of the initial skeleton geometry on its lateral distribution in the deformed state. The proposed model is used to analyze the measurements of skeleton extension ratios by the method of applying two modes of RBC micropipette aspiration.

Key words

Red blood cell Stress-free shape Membrane skeleton Skeleton deformation Spectrin Micropipette aspiration