European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 454–466

Physical descriptions of experimental selectivity measurements in ion channels

  • Dirk Gillespie
  • Robert S. Eisenberg


Three experiments that quantify the amount of selectivity exhibited by a biological ion channel are examined with Poisson-Nernst-Planck (PNP) theory. Conductance ratios and the conductance mole fraction experiments are examined by considering a simple model ion channel for which an approximate solution to the PNP equations with Donnan boundary conditions is derived. A more general result is derived for the Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz permeability ratio. The results show that (1) the conductance ratio measures the ratio of the diffusion coefficients of the ions inside the channel, (2) the mole fraction experiment measures the difference of the excess chemical potentials of the ions inside the channel, and (3) the permeability ratio measures both diffusion coefficients and excess chemical potentials. The results are used to divide selectivity into two components: partitioning, an equilibrium measure of how well the ions enter the channel, and diffusion, a nonequilibrium measure of how well the ions move through the channel.

Poisson-Nernst-Planck Selectivity Conductance ratio Permeability ratio 


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Copyright information

© EBSA 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Gillespie
    • 1
  • Robert S. Eisenberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Miami School of Medicine, P.O. Box 016430, Miami, FL 33101-6430, USA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, 1750 West Harrison Street, Suite 1291, Chicago, IL 60612, USA

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