Departmental Papers (CBE)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

December 2001


To assess local elasticity in the red cell’s spectrin-actin network, nano-particles were tethered to actin nodes and their constrained thermal motions were tracked. Cells were both immobilized and controllably deformed by aspiration into a micropipette. Since the network is well-appreciated as soft, thermal fluctuations even in an unstressed portion of network were expected to be many tens of nanometers based on simple equipartition ideas. Real-time particle tracking indeed reveals such root-mean-squared motions for 40-nm fluorescent beads either tethered to actin directly within a cell ghost or connected to actin from outside a cell via glycophorin. Moreover, the elastically constrained displacements are significant on the scale of the network’s internodal distance of ~60-80 nm. Surprisingly, along the aspirated projection—where the network is axially extended by as much as twofold or more—fluctuations in the axial direction are increased by almost twofold relative to motions in the unstressed network. The molecular basis for such strain softening is discussed broadly in terms of force-driven transitions. Specific considerations are given to 1) protein dissociations that reduce network connectivity, and 2) unfolding kinetics of a localized few of the red cell’s ~107 spectrin repeats.


Reprinted from Biophysical Journal, Volume 81, Issue 6, December 2001, pages 3178-3192.
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Date Posted: 20 February 2005

This document has been peer reviewed.