We studied phospholipid topology and transbilayer mobility in red cells during blood storage. The distribution of phospholipids was determined by measuring the reactivity of phosphatidylethanolamine with fluorescamine and the degradation of phospholipids by phospholipase A2 and sphingomyelinase C. Phospholipid mobility was measured by determining transbilayer movements of spin-labeled phospholipids. We were unable to detect a change in the distribution of endogenous membrane phospholipids in stored red cells even after 2-mo storage. The rate of inward movement of spin-labeled phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine was progressively reduced, whereas that for phosphatidylcholine was increased. These changes in phospholipid translocation correlated with a fall in cellular ATP. However, following restoration of ATP, neither the rate of aminophospholipid translocation nor the transbilayer movement of phosphatidylcholine were completely corrected. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that red cell storage alters the kinetics of transbilayer mobility of phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylcholine, the activity of the aminophospholipid translocase, but not the asymmetric distribution of endogenous membrane phospholipids, at least at a level detectable with phospholipases. Thus, if phosphatidylserine appearance on the outer monolayer is a signal for red cell elimination, the amount that triggers macrophage recognition is below the level of detection upon using the phospholipase technique.
D Geldwerth, F A Kuypers, P Bütikofer, M Allary, B H Lubin, P F Devaux