Molecules and cells

Atomic force microscopy of asymmetric membranes from turtle erythrocytes.

PMID 25134535


The cell membrane provides critical cellular functions that rely on its elaborate structure and organization. The structure of turtle membranes is an important part of an ongoing study of erythrocyte membranes. Using a combination of atomic force microscopy and single-molecule force spectroscopy, we characterized the turtle erythrocyte membrane structure with molecular resolution in a quasi-native state. High-resolution images both leaflets of turtle erythrocyte membranes revealed a smooth outer membrane leaflet and a protein covered inner membrane leaflet. This asymmetry was verified by single-molecule force spectroscopy, which detects numerous exposed amino groups of membrane proteins in the inner membrane leaflet but much fewer in the outer leaflet. The asymmetric membrane structure of turtle erythrocytes is consistent with the semi-mosaic model of human, chicken and fish erythrocyte membrane structure, making the semi-mosaic model more widely applicable. From the perspective of biological evolution, this result may support the universality of the semi-mosaic model.