Normal nonnucleated erythrocytes subjected to continuous hydrodynamic shear exhibit membrane deformation or "tanktreading," a process important for reduction of the bulk viscosity of circulating blood. To characterize the effect of this unique process on the erythrocyte membrane we have measured the lateral diffusion of band 3 during tanktreading. Band 3 is normally constrained through interactions with the spectrin-actin cytoskeleton, therefore, any significant disruption of these interactions would result in alterations in band 3 dynamics. Band 3 of human erythrocytes was labeled with dichlorotriazinyl amino fluorescein. After laser photobleaching of an equatorial stripe, fluorescence images were recorded from cells in the presence or absence of shear. The amplitude of induced nonuniformity in the surface distribution of fluorescence was calculated directly from images of unsheared cells. In shear the bleached line rotated with the tanktreading motion of the cells. The surface integral of fluorescence oscillated with this motion. For this case, the amplitude of photobleaching-induced nonuniformity was defined as the amplitude at the fundamental frequency of fast Fourier transforms in time of the oscillations. Shear stress-induced membrane flow did not interrupt the linkage of band 3 with the erythrocyte cytoskeleton. Diffusion coefficient and mobile fraction (1.5 +/- 0.5 x 10(-10) cm2/s and 54 +/- 11%, respectively) were unaffected by shear. The rate of fluorescence recovery of cells in shear was also similar at the centers and at the edges, where in-plane shear forces are maximal.
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