The linear relation between the red cell volume V and the reciprocal of the tonicity T of a hypotonic medium is not the linear one expected on the basis of the van't Hoff-Mariotte law, particularly when a fraction p of the cells are hemolyzed and the volume V/(1 – p) of the (1 – p) cells which remain intact is considered. In systems of relatively high tonicity in which p is zero, the relation is linear but its slope is usually too small; at lower tonicities in which p has a value between zero and 0.35, the volumes are larger than those expected on the basis of the van't Hoff-Mariotte law, while at still smaller tonicities they are much smaller than expected. The volume measurements referred to are made with a high speed hematocrit; the results obtained in systems containing relatively high and relatively low volume concentrations of cells are contrasted with each other, and allowance is made in the calculations for the volume of the hypotonic medium surrounding the cells being limited.
Attempts are made at an explanation of the anomalous results in terms of incomplete packing, of a stepwise as opposed to an all-or-none loss of Hb from the cells, of a heterogeneity in the swelling properties of the cells of the population, of a loss of osmotically active substances from the intact cells, and of the red cell ghost having some degree of rigidity. These explanations are not satisfying, although some of them in combination may account for the phenomena observed. It seems likely that the structures involved in the hemolytic process (cells and ghosts) have different properties in different tonicity ranges and even when the same tonicity is established in systems which are dense, as opposed to dilute, with respect to cell concentration.
The form of the tonicity-volume relation can be changed substantially, although not in the direction of greater linearity, by treating the cells with resorcinol, colloidal silicic acid, iodoacetate, or sodium oxalate. Small changes in pH, exposure to temperatures as high as 37°C., allowing the cells to stand for periods up to 24 hours, or the substitution of hypotonic plasma for hypotonic NaCl-buffer, produce, on the other hand, only minor changes in the tonicity-volume relation.