Balance of microtubule stiffness and cortical tension determines the size of blood cells with marginal band across species
Authors: Dmitrieff S, Alsina A, Mathur A, Nédélec FJ
CellNetworks People: Nédélec François
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Apr 25;114(17):4418-4423. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618041114

The fast bloodstream of animals is associated with large shear stresses. To withstand these conditions, blood cells have evolved a special morphology and a specific internal architecture to maintain their integrity over several weeks. For instance, nonmammalian red blood cells, mammalian erythroblasts, and platelets have a peripheral ring of microtubules, called the marginal band, that flattens the overall cell morphology by pushing on the cell cortex. In this work, we model how the shape of these cells stems from the balance between marginal band rigidity and cortical tension. We predict that the diameter of the cell scales with the total microtubule polymer and verify the predicted law across a wide range of species. Our analysis also shows that the combination of the marginal band rigidity and cortical tension increases the ability of the cell to withstand forces without deformation. Finally, we model the marginal band coiling that occurs during the disk-to-sphere transition observed, for instance, at the onset of blood platelet activation. We show that when cortical tension increases faster than cross-linkers can unbind, the marginal band will coil, whereas if the tension increases more slowly, the marginal band may shorten as microtubules slide relative to each other.