, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 93-122

Junction potentials, electrode standard potentials, and other problems in interpreting electrical properties of membranes

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As background to a detailed analysis of the cation permeation mechanism in rabbit gallbladder epithelium, this paper considers several general problems in interpretation. With regard to liquid junction potentials, the common practice of using saturated KCl bridges was insufficiently accurate for the present purposes because the resulting junctions are time-dependent and poorly understood theoretically. Time-independent and well-defined junction potentials were obtained by arranging all junctions to be of the biionic or single-salt dilution types. The magnitudes of these junction potentials were estimated in three different ways, with good agreement. Recording arrangements using either agar bridges or else Ag/AgCl electrodes also yielded good agreement after appropriate corrections for junction potentials and electrode potentials. The effects of nonelectrolytes on electrode standard potentials were measured. Two experiments were devised to determine whether transepithelially measured electrical properties of the gallbladder refer to a single membrane or to two membranes in series: the potential difference change resulting from a mucosal concentration change was measured as a function of the serosal concentration, and intracellular concentrations were altered by increasing bathing solution osmolalities with an impermeant nonelectrolyte. Both types of experiment indicated that transepithelial measurements are dominated by a single membrane. Small corrections were applied to measured potential differences to take account of unstirred-layer effects with permeant salts.