Red blood cell spectrin, along with actin and several other proteins, forms a skeletal meshwork on the cytoplasmic surface of the erythrocyte plasma membrane. This structure is thought to maintain red blood cell shape, membrane structural stability, and cellular elasticity, as well as controlling the lateral mobility of integral membrane proteins and the transbilayer movement of phospholipids. It is now clearly established that spectrin-related molecules are ubiquitous structural elements subjacent to the plasma membrane of mammalian and avian nonerythroid cells. In this review, we present the current knowledge concerning brain spectrin. Brain spectrin is an ~11S, ~1,000,000 molecular weight (αβ)2 tetramer containing subunits of 240,000 (α) and 235,000 (β) molecular weight. It is present in the cortical cytoplasm of all neuronal cell bodies and processes, and to a lesser extent in glial cells. Its involvement in the actin-membrane interaction, as well as other proposed functions in the nervous system is discussed.
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