Myosin IIA interacts with the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton to control red blood cell membrane curvature and deformability

Alyson S Smith, Roberta B Nowak, Sitong Zhou, Michael Giannetto, David S Gokhin, Julien Papoin, Ionita C Ghiran, Lionel Blanc, Jiandi Wan, Velia M Fowler
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2018 May 8, 115 (19): E4377-E4385
The biconcave disk shape and deformability of mammalian RBCs rely on the membrane skeleton, a viscoelastic network of short, membrane-associated actin filaments (F-actin) cross-linked by long, flexible spectrin tetramers. Nonmuscle myosin II (NMII) motors exert force on diverse F-actin networks to control cell shapes, but a function for NMII contractility in the 2D spectrin-F-actin network of RBCs has not been tested. Here, we show that RBCs contain membrane skeleton-associated NMIIA puncta, identified as bipolar filaments by superresolution fluorescence microscopy. MgATP disrupts NMIIA association with the membrane skeleton, consistent with NMIIA motor domains binding to membrane skeleton F-actin and contributing to membrane mechanical properties. In addition, the phosphorylation of the RBC NMIIA heavy and light chains in vivo indicates active regulation of NMIIA motor activity and filament assembly, while reduced heavy chain phosphorylation of membrane skeleton-associated NMIIA indicates assembly of stable filaments at the membrane. Treatment of RBCs with blebbistatin, an inhibitor of NMII motor activity, decreases the number of NMIIA filaments associated with the membrane and enhances local, nanoscale membrane oscillations, suggesting decreased membrane tension. Blebbistatin-treated RBCs also exhibit elongated shapes, loss of membrane curvature, and enhanced deformability, indicating a role for NMIIA contractility in promoting membrane stiffness and maintaining RBC biconcave disk cell shape. As structures similar to the RBC membrane skeleton exist in many metazoan cell types, these data demonstrate a general function for NMII in controlling specialized membrane morphology and mechanical properties through contractile interactions with short F-actin in spectrin-F-actin networks.

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