The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 35–44 | Cite as

Melittin lysis of red cells

  • M. T. Tosteson
  • S. J. Holmes
  • M. Razin
  • D. C. Tosteson
Articles

Summary

This paper describes experiments designed to explore interactions between human red blood cell membranes and melittin, the main component of bee venom. We found that melittin binds to human red cell membranes suspended in isotonic NaCl at room temperature, with an apparent dissociation constant of 3×10−8m and maximum binding capacity of 1.8×107 molecules/cell. When about 1% of the melittin binding sites are occupied, cell lysis can be observed, and progressive, further increases in the fraction of the total sites occupied lead to progressively greater lysis in a graded manner. 50% lysis occurs when there are about 2×106 molecules bound to the cell membrane. For any particular extent of melittin binding, lysis proceeds rapidly during the first few minutes but then slows and stops so that no further lysis occurs after one hour of exposure of cells to melittin. The graded lysis of erythrocytes by melittin is due to complete lysis of some of the cells, since both the density and the hemoglobin content of surviving, intact cells in a suspension that has undergone graded melittin lysis are similar to the values observed in the same cells prior to the addition of melittin. The cells surviving graded melittin lysis have an increased Na and reduced K, proportional to the extent of occupation of the melittin binding sites. Like lysis, Na accumulation and K loss proceed rapidly during the first few minutes of exposure to melittin but then stops so that Na, K and hemoglobin content of the cells remain constant after the first hour. These kinetic characteristics of both lysis and cation movements suggest that melittin modifies the permeability of the red cell membrane only for the first few minutes after the start of the interaction. Direct observation of cells by Nomarsky optics revealed that they crenate, become swollen and lyse within 10 to 30 sec after these changes in morphology are first seen. Taken together, these results are consistent with the idea that melittin produces lysis of human red cells at room temperature by a colloid osmotic mechanism.

Key Words

melittin-induced osmotic lysis human red cells permeability increases 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. T. Tosteson
    • 1
  • S. J. Holmes
    • 1
  • M. Razin
    • 1
  • D. C. Tosteson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsHarvard Medical SchoolBoston

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