Lipid bilayer and cytoskeletal interactions in a red blood cell

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 13;110(33):13356-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311827110. Epub 2013 Jul 29.


We study the biomechanical interactions between the lipid bilayer and the cytoskeleton in a red blood cell (RBC) by developing a general framework for mesoscopic simulations. We treated the lipid bilayer and the cytoskeleton as two distinct components and developed a unique whole-cell model of the RBC, using dissipative particle dynamics (DPD). The model is validated by comparing the predicted results with measurements from four different and independent experiments. First, we simulated the micropipette aspiration and quantified the cytoskeletal deformation. Second, we studied the membrane fluctuations of healthy RBCs and RBCs parasitized to different intraerythrocytic stages by the malaria-inducing parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Third, we subjected the RBC to shear flow and investigated the dependence of its tank-treading frequency on shear rate. Finally, we simulated the bilayer-cytoskeletal detachment in channel flow to quantify the strength of such interactions when the corresponding bonds break. Taken together, these experiments and corresponding systematic DPD simulations probe the governing constitutive response of the cytoskeleton, elastic stiffness, viscous friction, and strength of bilayer-cytoskeletal interactions as well as membrane viscosities. Hence, the DPD simulations and comparisons with available independent experiments serve as validation of the unique two-component model and lead to useful insights into the biomechanical interactions between the lipid bilayer and the cytoskeleton of the RBC. Furthermore, they provide a basis for further studies to probe cell mechanistic processes in health and disease in a manner that guides the design and interpretation of experiments and to develop simulations of phenomena that cannot be studied systematically by experiments alone.

Keywords: adhesion energy; coarse graining; erythrocyte; multiscale modeling; worm-like chain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Elasticity
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Plasmodium falciparum*
  • Shear Strength
  • Viscosity


  • Lipid Bilayers