Reversible and irreversible modification of erythrocyte membrane permeability by electric field

Engin H. Serpersu, Kazuhiko Kinosita, Yow Tsong Tian Yow Tsong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


Electric fields of a few kV/cm and of duration in microseconds are known to implant pores of limited size in cell membranes. We report here a study of kinetics of pore formation and reversibility of pores. Loading of biologically active molecules was also attempted. For human erythrocytes in an isotonic saline, pores allowed passive Rb+ entry formed within 0.5 μs when a 4 kV/cm electric pulse was used. Pores that admitted oligosaccharides were introduced with an electric pulse of a longer duration in an isosmotic mixture of NaCl and sucrose. These pores were irreversible under most circumstances, but they could be resealed in an osmotically balanced medium. A complete resealing of pores that admitted Rb+ took approximately 40 min at 37°C. Resealing of pores that admitted sucrose took much longer, 20 h, under similar conditions. In other cell types, resealing step may be omitted due to stronger membrane structures. Experimental protocols for loading small molecules into cells without losing cytoplasmic macromolecules are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-785
Number of pages7
JournalBBA - Biomembranes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1985 Feb 14
Externally publishedYes


  • (Erythrocyte membrane)
  • Electric field
  • Membrane permeability
  • Pore formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology


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