Scaffolding and the red blood cellThe human red blood cell owes many of it properties to an additional layer just inside the plasma membrane (*). This layer is called the cytoskeleton (*). The cytoskeleton is a supporting mesh of protein molecules, something like scaffolding. The major component of this mesh is a protein called spectrin which forms the links of the mesh. These links are attached to other proteins embedded in the plasma membrane to tie the two structures together. The relationships of these elements are shown in the diagram below:
Computer simulation of the spectrin network helped to reveal how it affects the properties of the red blood cell.