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Kamruzzahan, A. S. M.; Kienberger, Ferry; Stroh, Cordula M.; Berg, Jörg; Huss, Ralf; Ebner, A.; Zhu, Rong; Rankl, Christian; Gruber, Hermann J. and Hinterdorfer, Peter (2004): Imaging morphological details and pathological differences of red blood cells using tapping-mode AFM. In: Biological Chemistry, Vol. 385, No. 10: pp. 955-960 [PDF, 233kB]


The surface topography of red blood cells (RBCs) was investigated under nearphysiological conditions using atomic force microscopy (AFM). An immobilization protocol was established where RBCs are coupled via molecular bonds of the membrane glycoproteins to wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is covalently and flexibly tethered to the support. This results in a tight but noninvasive attachment of the cells. Using tappingmode AFM, which is known as gentle imaging mode and therefore most appropriate for soft biological samples like erythrocytes, it was possible to resolve membrane skeleton structures without major distortions or deformations of the cell surface. Significant differences in the morphology of RBCs from healthy humans and patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were observed on topographical images. The surface of RBCs from SLE patients showed characteristic circularshaped holes with approx. 200 nm in diameter under physiological conditions, a possible morphological correlate to previously published changes in the SLE erythrocyte membrane.

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