Erythrocytes are deformable cells whose shapes can be altered by treatments with a variety of drugs. The forms the erythrocyte may assume vary continuously from the spiny "echinocytes" or crenated cells at one extreme to highly folded and dented "cupped" cells at the other extreme. Examination of 39 compounds for cup-forming activity revealed a remarkable correlation between their ability to form cupped cells and their inhibitory activity against the calcium regulatory protein, calmodulin. Calmodulin is known to interact with several erythrocyte proteins including spectrin, spectrin kinase, and the Ca++ ATPase calcium pump of the membrane. These proteins regulate the form of the cytoskeleton as well as intracellular calcium and ATP levels. It is proposed that calmodulin is required to maintain normal erythrocyte morphology and that in the presence of calmodulin inhibitors, the cell assumes a cupped shape.

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