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Keywords:

  • electroporation;
  • protein denature;
  • ultrashort pulsed electric field

Abstract

In this paper, we compared the minimum potential differences in the electroporation of membrane lipid bilayers and the denaturation of membrane proteins in response to an intensive pulsed electric field with various pulse durations. Single skeletal muscle fibers were exposed to a pulsed external electric field. The field-induced changes in the membrane integrity (leakage current) and the Na channel currents were monitored to identify the minimum electric field needed to damage the membrane lipid bilayer and the membrane proteins, respectively. We found that in response to a relatively long pulsed electric shock (longer than the membrane intrinsic time constant), a lower membrane potential was needed to electroporate the cell membrane than for denaturing the membrane proteins, while for a short pulse a higher membrane potential was needed. In other words, phospholipid bilayers are more sensitive to the electric field than the membrane proteins for a long pulsed shock, while for a short pulse the proteins become more vulnerable. We can predict that for a short or ultrashort pulsed electric shock, the minimum membrane potential required to start to denature the protein functions in the cell plasma membrane is lower than that which starts to reduce the membrane integrity. Bioelectromagnetics 34:253–263, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.