Time courses of cell electroporation as revealed by submicrosecond imaging of transmembrane potential

M. Hibino, H. Itoh, K. Kinosita*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

264 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the membrane conductance of sea urchin eggs, during the course of electroporation, were investigated over the time range of 0.5 μs to 1 ms by imaging the transmembrane potential at a submicrosecond resolution with the voltage-sensitive fluorescent dye RH292. When a rectangular electric pulse of moderate intensity was applied across an egg, a position-dependent potential developed synchronously with the pulse, as theory predicts for a cell with an insulating membrane. From the rise and fall times, the membrane capacitance of unfertilized eggs was estimated to be 0.95 μF/cm2 and the intracellular conductance 220 Ω · cm. Under an electric pulse of much higher intensity, the rise of the induced potential stopped at a certain level and then slowly decreased on the microsecond time scale. This saturation and subsequent reversal of the potential development was ascribed to the introduction of finite membrane conductance, or permeabilization of the membrane, by the action of the intense pulse (electroporation). Detailed analysis indicated the following: already at 0.5 μs in the rectangular electric pulse, the two sides of the egg facing the positive and negative electrodes were porated and gave a high membrane conductance in the order of 1 S/cm2; the conductance on the positive side appeared higher. Thereafter, the conductance increased steadily, reaching the order of 10 S/cm2 by 1 ms. This increase was faster on the negative-electrode side; by 1 ms the conductance on the negative side was more than twice that on the positive side. The recovery of the porated membrane after the pulse treatment was assessed from the membrane conductance estimated in a second electric pulse of a small amplitude. At least two recovery processes were distinguished, one with a time constant of 7 μs and the other 0.5 ms, at the end of which the membrane conductance was already <0.1 S/cm2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1789-1800
Number of pages12
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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