With the advent of proteomic techniques the number of known post-translational modifications (PTMs) affecting red cell membrane proteins is rapidly growing but the understanding of their role under physiological and pathological conditions is incompletely established. The wide range of hereditary diseases affecting different red cell membrane functions and the membrane modifications induced by malaria parasite intracellular growth represent a unique opportunity to study PTMs in response to variable cellular stresses. In the present review, some of the major areas of interest in red cell membrane research have been considered as modifications of erythrocyte deformability and maintenance of the surface area, membrane transport alterations, and removal of diseased and senescent red cells. In all mentioned research areas the functional roles of PTMs are prevalently restricted to the phosphorylative changes of the more abundant membrane proteins. The insufficient information about the PTMs occurring in a large majority of the red membrane proteins and the general lack of mass spectrometry data evidence the need of new comprehensive, proteomic approaches to improve the understanding of the red cell membrane physiology.
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