Kinetics of rouleau formation. II. Reversible reactions

Biophys J. 1984 Apr;45(4):805-24. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(84)84225-3.


Red blood cells aggregate face-to-face to form long, cylindrical, straight chains and sometimes branched structures called rouleaux. Here we extend a kinetic model developed by R. W. Samsel and A. S. Perelson (1982, Biophys. J. 37:493-514) to include both the formation and dissociation of rouleaux. We examine thermodynamic constraints on the rate constants of the model imposed by the principle of detailed balance. Incorporation of reverse reactions allows us to compute mean sizes of rouleaux and straight chain segments within rouleaux, as functions of time and at equilibrium. Using the Flory - Stockmayer method from polymer chemistry, we obtain a closed-form solution for the size distribution of straight chain segments within rouleaux at any point in the evolution of the reaction. The predictions of our theory compare favorably with data collected by D. Kernick , A.W.L. Jay , S. Rowlands , and L. Skibo (1973, Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 51:690-699) on the kinetics of rouleau formation. When rouleaux grow large, they may contain rings or loops and take on the appearance of a network. We demonstrate the importance of including the kinetics of ring closure in the development of realistic models of rouleaux formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Edetic Acid
  • Erythrocyte Aggregation*
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological
  • Thermodynamics


  • Edetic Acid