The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 83–88 | Cite as

Transient breakdown in the selective permeability of the plasma membrane ofChlorella emersonii in response to hyperosmotic shock: Implications for cell water relations and osmotic adjustment

  • Robert H. Reed


In osmotic experiments involving cells of the euryhaline unicellular green algaChlorella emersonii exposed to hyperosmotic stress by immersion in a range of low molecular weight organic and inorganic solutes, a temporary breakdown in the selective permeability of the plasma membrane was observed during the initial phase of transfer to media of high osmotic strength (up to 2000 mosmol kg−1). Thus, although the cells appeared to obey the Boyle-van't Hoff relationship in all cases, showing approximately linear changes in volume (at high salinity) as a function of the reciprocal of the external osmotic pressure, the extent of change was least for the triitols, propylene glycol and glycerol, intermediate for glucose, sorbitol, NaCl and KCl, with greatest changes in media containing the disaccharides sucrose and maltose. In NaCl-treated cells, uptake of external solute and loss of internal ions was observed in response to hyperosmotic treatment while sucrose-treated cells showed no significant uptake of external solute, although loss of intracellular K+ was observed. These observations suggest that the widely used technique of estimating cellular turgor, and osmotic/nonosmotic volume by means of the changes in volume that occur upon transfer to media containing increasing amounts of either a low molecular weight organic solute or an inorganic salt may be subject to error. The assumption that all algal cells behave as “ideal osmometers,” with outer membranes that are permeable to water but not to solutes, during the course of such experiments is therefore incorrect, and the data need to be adjusted to take account of hyperosmotically induced external solute penetration and/or loss of intracellular osmotica before meaningful estimates of cell turgor and osmotic volume can be obtained.

Key Words

Chlorella emersonii unicellular alga osmotic responses cell volume membrane permeability hyperosmotic shock osmometric behavior 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert H. Reed
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK

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