Effect of solution environment on the permeability of red blood cells

Leah J. Langsdorf, Andrew L. Zydney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The cell membrane permeability governs the rate of solute transport into and out of the cell, significantly affecting the cell's metabolic processes, viability, and potential usefulness in both biotechnological applications and physiological systems. Most previous studies of the cell membrane permeability have neglected the possible effects of suspending medium on membrane transport, even though there is extensive experimental evidence that suspending phase composition can significantly affect other properties related to the cell membrane (e.g., cell deformability, fragility, and aggregation rate). This study examined the effects of suspending phase composition (both proteins and electrolytes) on the permeability of human red blood cells to the metabolites creatinine and uric acid. Data were obtained using a stirred ultrafiltration device with direct cell‐ and proteinfree sampling through a semipermeable membrane. Both the uric acid and creatinine permeabilities were strongly affected by the suspending phase composition, with the permeabilities in different buffer solutions varying by as much as a factor of three. The predominant factors affecting the permeability were the presence (or absence) of chloride, phosphate/adenine, and proteins, although the magnitude and even the direction of these effects were significantly different for creatinine and uric acid transport. The dramatic differences in behavior for uric acid and creatinine reflect the different transport mechanisms for these solutes, with uric acid transported by a carrier‐mediated mechanism and creatinine transported by passive diffusion through the lipid bilayer. These results provide important insights into the effects of solution environment on cell membrane transport and other cell membrane‐mediated properties. © 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 20 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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