Journal of Membrane Biology

, 232:25 | Cite as

Red Blood Cell Membrane Fluidity in the Etiology of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Gloudina M. Hon
  • Mogamat S. Hassan
  • Susan J. van Rensburg
  • Stefan Abel
  • Paul van Jaarsveld
  • Rajiv T. Erasmus
  • Tandi MatshaEmail author


Organisms adjust the order, or fluidity, of their cellular membranes in response to changes in their physiochemical environment by adjusting the lipid composition of their membranes. We investigated membrane fluidity using the phospholipid, fatty acid and cholesterol content of red blood cells (RBCs) from multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and correlated this with C-reactive protein (CRP) as well as with the severity of neurological outcome as measured by the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and its Functional System Scores. The study group consisted of 31 patients with MS and 30 healthy control subjects. Phospholipids were determined using a colorimetric assay, fatty acids by gas chromatography, cholesterol by an enzymatic assay and CRP by a Beckman nephelometer. Cell membrane fluidity was calculated according to previously established formulae. RBC membrane fluidity as measured by the saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio was higher in patients than in controls (P = 0.04). The phosphatidylethanolamine saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio showed highly significant positive correlations with the EDSS and CRP < 5 μg/ml. CRP showed significant inverse correlations with the saturated nature but positive correlations with the ordered-crystalline-phase to liquid-crystalline-phase lipid ratio. In this study we show that membrane fluidity as measured by the relationship between membrane fatty acids, phospholipids and cholesterol is closely interrelated with inflammation and disease outcome in patients with MS. In conclusion, our findings suggest that the membrane lipid composition of patients with MS and, consequently, membrane fluidity are altered, which seems to be influenced by the inflammatory status.


Erythrocyte membrane Cytoskeleton Membrane Fatty acid binding through membranes Biochemistry Structure 



We extend our sincere gratitude to the following: MS Society, Western Cape Branch, South Africa, and Sister Treska Botha for the recruitment of patients; Ms. Johanna van Wyk for technical support in the analysis of fatty acids; Dr. Marius de Klerk for the measurement of the EDSS and FSS. This study was funded by a grant from the University Research Fund of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gloudina M. Hon
    • 1
  • Mogamat S. Hassan
    • 1
  • Susan J. van Rensburg
    • 2
  • Stefan Abel
    • 3
  • Paul van Jaarsveld
    • 4
  • Rajiv T. Erasmus
    • 5
  • Tandi Matsha
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Bio-Medical Sciences, Biomedical Technology, Faculty of Health and Wellness ScienceCape Peninsula University of TechnologyCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.National Health Laboratory ServicesTygerbergSouth Africa
  3. 3.PROMEC Unit and NIRUSouth African Medical Research CouncilTygerbergSouth Africa
  4. 4.South African Medical Research CouncilTygerbergSouth Africa
  5. 5.Division of Chemical PathologyNational Health Laboratory ServicesTygerbergSouth Africa

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