, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 173-185
Date: 09 Feb 2007

Electropermeabilization of dense cell suspensions

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This paper investigates the influence of cell density on cell membrane electropermeabilization. The experiments were performed on dense cell suspensions (up to 400 × 106 cells/ml), which represent a simple model for studying electropermeabilization of tissues. Permeabilization was assayed with a fluorescence test using Propidium iodide to obtain the mean number of permeabilized cells (i.e. fluorescence positive) and the mean fluorescence per cell (amount of loaded dye). In our study, as the cell density increased from 10 × 106 to 400 × 106 cells/ml, the fraction of permeabilized cells decreased by approximately 50%. We attributed this to the changes in the local electric field, which led to a decrease in the amplitude of the induced transmembrane voltage. To obtain the same fraction of cell permeabilization in suspensions with 10 × 106 and 400 × 106 cells/ml, the latter suspension had to be permeabilized with higher pulse amplitude, which is in qualitative agreement with numerical computations. The electroloading of the cells also decreased with cell density. The decrease was considerably larger than expected from the differences in the permeabilized cell fractions alone. The additional decrease in fluorescence was mainly due to cell swelling after permeabilization, which reduced extracellular dye availability to the permeabilized membrane and hindered the dye diffusion into the cells. We also observed that resealing of cells appeared to be slower in dense suspensions, which can be attributed to cell swelling resulting from electropermeabilization.