The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 236, Issue 1, pp 3–13 | Cite as

Induced Transmembrane Voltage and Its Correlation with Electroporation-Mediated Molecular Transport

  • Tadej Kotnik
  • Gorazd Pucihar
  • Damijan Miklavčič


Exposure of a cell to an electric field results in inducement of a voltage across its membrane (induced transmembrane voltage, ΔΨ m) and, for sufficiently strong fields, in a transient increase of membrane permeability (electroporation). We review the analytical, numerical and experimental methods for determination of ΔΨ m and a method for monitoring of transmembrane transport. We then combine these methods to investigate the correlation between ΔΨ m and molecular transport through an electroporated membrane for isolated cells of regular and irregular shapes, for cells in dense suspensions as well as for cells in monolayer clusters. Our experiments on isolated cells of both regular and irregular shapes confirm the theoretical prediction that the highest absolute values of ΔΨ m are found in the membrane regions facing the electrodes and that electroporation-mediated transport is confined to these same regions. For cells in clusters, the location of transport regions implies that, at the field strengths sufficient for electroporation, the cells behave as electrically insulated (i.e., as individual) cells. In contrast, with substantially weaker, nonelectroporating fields, potentiometric measurements show that the cells in these same clusters behave as electrically interconnected cells (i.e., as one large cell). These results suggest that sufficiently high electric fields affect the intercellular pathways and thus alter the electric behavior of the cells with respect to their normal physiological state.


Induced transmembrane voltage Electroporation Transmembrane transport Isolated cell Cell suspension Cell cluster Di-8-ANEPPS Propidium iodide 



This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (project Z2-9227 and program P2-0249). We dedicate this report to the memory of Robert Susil.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tadej Kotnik
    • 1
  • Gorazd Pucihar
    • 1
  • Damijan Miklavčič
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Electrical EngineeringUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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