Spectrin is a cytoskeletal protein that lines the intracellular side of the plasma membrane of many cell types in pentagonal or hexagonal arrangements, forming a scaffolding and playing an important role in maintenance of plasma membrane integrity and cytoskeletal structure. The hexagonal arrangements are formed by tetramers of spectrin associating with short actin filaments at either end of the tetramer. These short actin filaments act as junctional complexes allowing the formation of the hexagonal mesh.
In certain types of brain injury such as diffuse axonal injury, spectrin is irreversibly cleaved by the proteolytic enzyme calpain, destroying the cytosketelon. Spectrin cleavage causes the membrane to form blebs and ultimately to be degraded, usually leading to the death of the cell.
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