[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Strong adhesion of highly active cells often nucleates focal adhesions, synapses, and related structures. Red cells lack such complex adhesion systems and are also nonmotile, but they are shown here to dynamically evolve complex spatial patterns beyond an electrostatic threshold for strong adhesion. Spreading of the cell onto a dense, homogeneous poly-L-lysine surface appears complete in <1 s with occasional blisters that form and dissipate on a similar timescale; distinct rippled or stippled patterns in fluorescently labeled membrane components emerge later, however, on timescales more typical of long-range lipid diffusion (approximately minutes). Within the contact zone, the anionic fluorescent lipid fluorescein phosphoethanolamine is seen to rearrange, forming worm-like rippled or stippled domains of <500 nm that prove independent of whether the cell is intact and sustaining a tension or ruptured. Lipid patterns are accompanied by visible perturbations in Band 3 distribution and weaker perturbations in membrane skeleton actin. Pressing down on the membrane quenches the lipid patterns, revealing a clear topographical basis for pattern formation. Counterion screening and membrane fluctuations likely contribute, but the results primarily highlight the fact that even in adhesion of a passive red cell, regions of strong contact slowly evolve to become interspersed with regions where the membrane is more distant from the surface.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Membrane tension underlies a range of cell physiological processes. Strong adhesion of the simple red cell is used as a simple model of a spread cell with a finite membrane tension-a state which proves useful for studies of both membrane rupture kinetics and atomic force microscopy (AFM) probing of native structure. In agreement with theories of strong adhesion, the cell takes the form of a spherical cap on a substrate densely coated with poly-L-lysine. The spreading-induced tension, sigma, in the membrane is approximately 1 mN/m, which leads to rupture over many minutes; and sigma is estimated from comparable rupture times in separate micropipette aspiration experiments. Under the sharpened tip of an AFM probe, nano-Newton impingement forces (10-30 nN) are needed to penetrate the tensed erythrocyte membrane, and these forces increase exponentially with tip velocity ( approximately nm/ms). We use the results to clarify how tapping-mode AFM imaging works at high enough tip velocities to avoid rupturing the membrane while progressively compressing it to a approximately 20-nm steric core of lipid and protein. We also demonstrate novel, reproducible AFM imaging of tension-supported membranes in physiological buffer, and we describe a stable, distended network consistent with the spectrin cytoskeleton. Additionally, slow retraction of the AFM tip from the tensed membrane yields tether-extended, multipeak sawtooth patterns of average force approximately 200 pN. In sum we show how adhesive tensioning of the red cell can be used to gain novel insights into native membrane dynamics and structure.