Viscoelastic properties of the oxygenated sickle erythrocyte membrane.Biorheology. 1989; 26(5):935-49.B
Although most apparent in permanently misshapen irreversibly sickled erythrocytes (ISC), biochemical and structural alterations are present in the majority of sickle cell membranes. The relationship of membrane rigidity to cell shape and its dependence upon the internal hemoglobin cytosol are not clarified. We therefore examined the frequency dependent viscoelasticity of oxygenated, packed sickle red cell and ghost suspensions and hemoglobin solutions prepared from density gradient separated ISC and reversibly sickled cell (RSC) fractions. Low amplitude, oscillatory shear was applied in a Weissenberg cone and plate viscometer and the resultant viscoelastic signals provided a dynamic viscosity (eta') and elastic storage modulus (G') which varied with frequency of deformation. The viscoelastic response of the cell and ghost suspensions reflected the material properties of the membrane over most of the frequency range tested. Sickle erythrocyte, red ghost, and white ghost suspensions demonstrated greater viscocoelasticity than comparable normal suspensions. The viscoelastic magnitude of ISC was several-fold greater than normal, with little variation of viscoelasticity with frequency. RSC samples which were characterized by normal shape, size, and internal hemoglobin concentration were also significantly harder than normal, although similar in frequency dependence. Red ghosts prepared from ISC manifested 80% of the viscoelasticity of intact ISC despite diminution of the internal hemoglobin concentration by 90%. Under conditions of low amplitude shear, the behavior of the RSC membrane is compatible with a cytoskeleton possessing an increased number of molecular associations. The mechanical stability of the ISC membrane is related to a substantial, intrinsic reorganization of the cytoskeleton.