Effect of wheat germ agglutinin on the viscoelastic properties of erythrocyte membrane.
The elasticity and viscosity of the human erythrocyte membrane were measured as a function of the concentration of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) in a suspending solution containing 1 mg/ml albumin, approximately 5 X 10(5) cells/ml and between 0.0 and 0.2 microgram/ml WGA. Membrane elasticity was characterized by the elastic shear modulus, which provided a measure of the resistance of the membrane to constant-area elastic deformations that occurred in the membrane plane. The elastic shear modulus was determined by aspirating a portion of the membrane into a micropipette and measuring the extension of the membrane into the pipette as a function of the suction pressure. The results indicated no significant change in shear modulus for concentrations of WGA between 0.0 and 0.2 microgram/ml. Membrane viscosity was characterized by the coefficient of surface viscosity, which, in effect, was a measure of the membrane's resistance to rates of deformation. This coefficient was determined from the time required for an erythrocyte to recover its undeformed shape after it had been elongated by the application of an equal and opposite force applied at diametrically opposite points on the erythrocyte rim. The value for the coefficient of surface viscosity was found to increase by a factor of almost three when the WGA concentration was increased from 0.0 to 0.2 microgram/ml. These results indicated that, in the presence of albumin, WGA can increase membrane dissipation (viscosity) without altering the structural rigidity (elasticity) of the membrane.
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