Interaction of chlorpromazine with the human erythrocyte membrane

M. R. Lieber, Y. Lange, R. S. Weinstein, T. L. Steck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


The interaction of the amphipath chlorpromazine (CPZ) with the human erythrocyte membrane was evaluated. The partition coefficient of CPZ between the membrane bilayer and the aqueous compartment, measured spectrophotometrically, ranged between 1 and 3 x 103. An independent estimate, 4.6 x 103, was obtained by a novel method which avoided the measurement of binding and determined instead the variation of the hemolytic potency of the amphipath with the ratio of buffer volume to membrane volume. The maximal uptake of CPZ exceeded 2 x 109 molecules/red cell, corresponding to a volume greater than that of the bilayer itself. Such heavily loaded membranes were increased in thickness more than 2-fold, suggesting the formation of a CPZ-rich zone at the center of the bilayer. Ghosts loaded with massive levels of CPZ condensed approximately 20-fold in surface area and increased proportionately in thickness, suggesting the formation of a novel CPZ-lipid solution. CPZ caused hemolysis by a colloid-osmotic mechanism. By measuring the simultaneous uptake of mannitol and sucrose, we determined that CPZ induced holes of constant size but variable number. If circular, the holes would have had a diameter of approximately 14 Å. The time-averaged number of holes ranged from 0.09 per cell (signifying intermittency) to 16. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy of CPZ-treated red cells revealed multiple round patches of nearly particle-free bilayer up to 0.3 μm in diameter with crowding of the intramembrane particles into the surrounding membrane. We interpret these images to signify lateral phase separation within the CPZ-treated bilayer. Hemolysis could, therefore, result from the intermittent opening of weak seams at phase boundaries; these could then be fluctuating slits approximately 14 Å in width and of variable length, rather than simple circular holes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9225-9234
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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