Plasma membrane voltage changes during nanosecond pulsed electric field exposure

W. Frey, J. A. White, R. O. Price, P. F. Blackmore, R. P. Joshi, R. Nuccitelli, S. J. Beebe, K. H. Schoenbach, J. F. Kolb

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198 Scopus citations


The change in the membrane potential of Jurkat cells in response to nanosecond pulsed electric fields was studied for pulses with a duration of 60 ns and maximum field strengths of ∼100 kV/cm (100 V/cell diameter). Membranes of Jurkat cells were stained with a fast voltage-sensitive dye, ANNINE-6, which has a subnanosecond voltage response time. A temporal resolution of 5 ns was achieved by the excitation of this dye with a tunable laser pulse. The laser pulse was synchronized with the applied electric field to record images at times before, during, and after exposure. When exposing the Jurkat cells to a pulse, the voltage across the membrane at the anodic pole of the cell reached values of 1.6 V after 15 ns, almost twice the voltage level generally required for electroporation. Voltages across the membrane on the side facing the cathode reached values of only 0.6 V in the same time period, indicating a strong asymmetry in conduction mechanisms in the membranes of the two opposite cell hemispheres. This small voltage drop of 0.6-1.6 V across the plasma membrane demonstrates that nearly the entire imposed electric .eld of 10 V/μm penetrates into the interior of the cell and every organelle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3608-3615
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2006


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