Another interpretation of the Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz equation based on Ling’s adsorption theory

  • Hirohisa Tamagawa
  • Kota Ikeda
Original Article


According to standard membrane theory, the generation of membrane potential is attributed to transmembrane ion transport. However, there have been a number of reports of membrane behavior in conflict with the membrane theory of cellular potential. Putting aside the membrane theory, we scrutinized the generation mechanism of membrane potential from the view of the long-dismissed adsorption theory of Ling. Ling’s adsorption theory attributes the membrane potential generation to mobile ion adsorption. Although Ling’s adsorption theory conflicts with the broadly accepted membrane theory, we found that it well reproduces experimentally observed membrane potential behavior. Our theoretical analysis finds that the potential formula based on the GHK eq., which is a fundamental concept of membrane theory, coincides with the potential formula based on Ling’s adsorption theory. Reinterpreting the permeability coefficient in the GHK eq. as the association constant between the mobile ion and adsorption site, the GHK eq. turns into the potential formula from Ling’s adsorption theory. We conclude that the membrane potential is generated by ion adsorption as Ling’s adsorption theory states and that the membrane theory of cellular potential should be amended even if not discarded.


Membrane theory Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz Permeability coefficient Ling’s adsorption theory Association constant 



This work was carried out under the financial support by Koshiyama Science and Technology Foundation.


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Copyright information

© European Biophysical Societies' Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringGifu UniversityGifuJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Advanced Mathematical SciencesMeiji UniversityNakano-kuJapan

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