Detachment of agglutinin-bonded red blood cells. II. Mechanical energies to separate large contact areas

E. Evans, D. Berk, A. Leung, N. Mohandas

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    As detailed in a companion paper (Berk, D., and E. Evans. 1991. Biophys. J. 59:861-872), a method was developed to quantitate the strength of adhesion between agglutinin-bonded membranes without ambiguity due to mechanical compliance of the cell body. The experimental method and analysis were formulated around controlled assembly and detachment of a pair of macroscopically smooth red blood cell surfaces. The approach provides precise measurement of the membrane tension applied at the perimeter of an adhesive contact and the contact angle θ(c) between membrane surfaces which defines the mechanical leverage factor (1 - cos θ(c)) important in the definition of the work to separate a unit area of contact. Here, the method was applied to adhesion and detachment of red cells bound together by different monoclonal antibodies to red cell membrane glycophorin and the snail-helix pomatia-lectin. For these tests, one of the two red cells was chemically prefixed in the form of a smooth sphere then equilibrated with the agglutinin before the adhesion-detachment procedure. The other cell was not exposed to the agglutinin until it was forced into contact with the rigid cell surface by mechanical impingement. Large regions of agglutinin bonding were produced by impingement but no spontaneous spreading was observed beyond the forced contact. Measurements of suction force to detach the deformable cell yielded consistent behavior for all of the agglutinins: i.e., the strength of adhesion increased progressively with reduction in contact diameter throughout detachment. This tension-contact diameter behavior was not altered over a ten-fold range of separation rates. In special cases, contacts separated smoothly after critical tensions were reached; these were the highest values attained for tension. Based on measurements reported in another paper (Evans et al. 1991. Biophys. J. 59:838-848) of the forces required to rupture molecular-point attachments, the density of cross-bridges was estimated with the assumption that the tension was proportional to the discrete rupture force x the number of attachments per unit length. These estimates showed that only a small fraction of agglutinin formed cross-bridges at initial assembly and increased progressively with separation. When critical tension levels were reached, it appeared that nearly all local agglutinin was involved as cross-bridges. Because one cell surface was chemically fixed, receptor accumulation was unlikely; thus, microscopic ''roughness'' and steric repulsion probably modulated formation of cross-bridges on initial contact. To counter the steric repulsion, adhesive contacts were exposed to solutions of a high molecular weight polymer to draw the surfaces together by osmotic dehydration of the adhesion gap. These stresses exceeded initial mechanical assembly stresses by up to three orders of magnitude. As expected, the strength of adhesion was greatly enhanced by the added impingement stress.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)849-860
    Number of pages11
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


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