Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes

, Volume 16, Issue 5–6, pp 583–595 | Cite as

Properties of a transplasma membrane electron transport system in HeLa cells

  • Iris L. Sun
  • F. L. Crane
  • C. Grebing
  • H. Löw
Research Articles


A transmembrane electron transport system has been studied in HeLa cells using an external impermeable oxidant, ferricyanide. Reduction of ferricyanide by HeLa cells shows biphasic kinetics with a rate up to 500 nmoles/min/g w.w. (wet weight) for the fast phase and half of this rate for the slow phase. The apparentK m is 0.125 mM for the fast rate and 0.24 mM for the slow rate. The rate of reduction is proportional to cell concentration. Inhibition of the rate by glycolysis inhibitors indicates the reduction is dependent on glycolysis, which contributes the cytoplasmic electron donor NADH. Ferricyanide reduction is shown to take place on the outside of cells for it is affected by external pH and agents which react with the external surface. Ferricyanide reduction is accompanied by proton release from the cells. For each mole of ferricyanide reduced, 2.3 moles of protons are released. It is, therefore, concluded that a transmembrane redox system in HeLa cells is coupled to proton gradient generation across the membrane. We propose that this redox system may be an energy source for control of membrane function in HeLa cells. The promotion of cell growth by ferricyanide (0.33–0.1 mM), which can partially replace serum as a growth factor, strongly supports this hypothesis.

Key Words

Plasma membrane electron transport proton excretion growth factors ferricyanide reduction 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iris L. Sun
    • 1
  • F. L. Crane
    • 1
  • C. Grebing
    • 2
  • H. Löw
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyPurdue UniversityWest Lafayette
  2. 2.Department of EndocrinologyKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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