We have previously proposed the hypothesis that asymmetric membranes behave like bilayer couples: the two layers of the bilayer membrane can respond differently to a particular perturbation. Such a perturbation, for example, can result in the expansion of one layer relative to the other, thereby producing a curvature of that membrane. In experiments with erythrocytes and lymphocytes, we now demonstrate that different membrane perturbations which have opposite effects on membrane curvature can compensate and neutralize one another, as expected from the bilayer couple hypothesis. This provides a rational basis, for example, for understanding the effects of amphipathic drugs on a variety of cellular phenomena which involve shape changes of membranes.

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