Red Blood Cell Deformability Is Expressed by a Set of Interrelated Membrane Proteins

Gregory Barshtein, Alexander Gural, Dan Arbell, Refael Barkan, Leonid Livshits, Ivana Pajic-Lijakovic, Saul Yedgar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Red blood cell (RBC) deformability, expressing their ability to change their shape, allows them to minimize their resistance to flow and optimize oxygen delivery to the tissues. RBC with reduced deformability may lead to increased vascular resistance, capillary occlusion, and impaired perfusion and oxygen delivery. A reduction in deformability, as occurs during RBC physiological aging and under blood storage, is implicated in the pathophysiology of diverse conditions with circulatory disorders and anemias. The change in RBC deformability is associated with metabolic and structural alterations, mostly uncharacterized. To bridge this gap, we analyzed the membrane protein levels, using mass spectroscopy, of RBC with varying deformability determined by image analysis. In total, 752 membrane proteins were identified. However, deformability was positively correlated with the level of only fourteen proteins, with a highly significant inter-correlation between them. These proteins are involved in membrane rafting and/or the membrane–cytoskeleton linkage. These findings suggest that the reduction of deformability is a programmed (not arbitrary) process of remodeling and shedding of membrane fragments, possibly mirroring the formation of extracellular vesicles. The highly significant inter-correlation between the deformability-expressing proteins infers that the cell deformability can be assessed by determining the level of a few, possibly one, of them.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number12755
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number16
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2023

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© 2023 by the authors.


  • RBC deformability
  • lipid rafts
  • membrane proteins
  • membrane remodeling
  • membrane vesicles
  • red blood cells


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