Triton shells of intact erythrocytes

M. P. Sheetz, D. Sawyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


About 40% of human erythrocyte membrane protein is resistant to solubilization in 0.5% Triton X-114. These components comprise a structure called a Triton shell roughly similar in size and shape to the original erythrocyte and thus constitute a cytoskeleton. With increasing concentrations of Triton the lipid content of the Triton shell decreases dramatically, whereas the majority of the protein components remain constant. Exceptions to this rule include proteins contained in band 3, the presumed anion channel, and in band 4 which decrease with increasing Triton concentration. The Triton-insoluble complex includes spectrin (bands 1 and 2), actin (band 5) and bands 3' and 7. Component 3' has an apparent molecular weight of 88,000 daltons as does 3; but unlike 3, it is insensitive to protease treatment of the intact cell, has a low extinction coefficient at 280 nm, and is solubilized from the shells in alkaline water solutions. Component 7 also has a low extinction coefficient at 280 nm. Spectrin alone is solubilized from the Triton shells in isotonic media. The solubilized spectrin contains no bound Triton and coelectrophoreses with spectrin eluted in hypotonic solutions from ghosts. Electron micrographs of fixed Triton shells stained with uranyl acetate show the presence of numerous filaments which appear beaded and are 80-120 Å in diameter. The filaments cannot be composed mainly of actin, but enough spectrin is present to form the filaments. Triton shells may provide an excellent source of material useful in the investigation of the erythrocyte cytoskeleton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in clinical and biological research
VolumeNo 30
StatePublished - 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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