Skeletal proteins play an important role in determining erythrocyte membrane biophysical properties. To study whether membrane deformability and stability are regulated by the same or different skeletal protein interactions, we measured these two properties, by means of ektacytometry, in biochemically perturbed normal membranes and in membranes from individuals with known erythrocyte abnormalities. Treatment with 2,3-diphosphoglycerate resulted in membranes with decreased deformability and decreased stability, whereas treatment with diamide produced decreased deformability but increased stability. N-ethylmaleimide induced time-dependent changes in membrane stability. Over the first minute, the stability increased; but with continued incubation, the membranes became less stable than control. Meanwhile, the deformability of these membranes decreased with no time dependence. Biophysical measurements were also carried out on pathologic erythrocytes. Membranes from an individual with hereditary spherocytosis and a defined abnormality in spectrin-protein 4.1 association showed decreased stability but normal deformability. In a family with hereditary elliptocytosis and an abnormality in spectrin self-association, the membranes had decreased deformability and stability. Finally, membranes from several individuals with Malaysian ovalocytosis had decreased deformability but increased stability. Our data from both pathologic membranes and biochemically perturbed membranes show that deformability and stability change with no fixed relationship to one another. These findings imply that different skeletal protein interactions regulate membrane deformability and stability. In light of these data, we propose a model of the role of skeletal protein interactions in deformability and stability.

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