Potential gradients imposed across cell or lipid membranes break down the insulating properties of these barriers if an intensity and time-dependent threshold is exceeded. Potential gradients of this magnitude may occur throughout the body, and in particular in cardiac tissue, during clinical defibrillation, ablation, and electrocution trauma. To study the dynamics of membrane electropermeabilization a cell-attached patch clamp technique was used to directly control the potential across membrane patches of single ventricular cells enzymatically isolated from frog (Rana pipiens) hearts. Ramp waveshapes were used to reveal rapid membrane conductance changes that may have otherwise been obscured using rectangular waveshapes. We observed a step increase (delta t less than 30 microseconds) or breakdown in membrane conductance at transmembrane potential thresholds of 0.6–1.1 V in response to 0.1–1.0 kV/s voltage ramps. Conductance kinetics on a sub-millisecond time scale indicate that breakdown is preceded by a period of instability during which the noise and amplitude of the membrane conductance begin to increase. In some cells membrane breakdown was observed to be fully reversible when using an intershock interval of 1 min (20–23 degrees C). These findings support energetic models of membrane electropermeabilization which describe the formation of membrane pores (or growth of existing pores) to a conducting state (instability), followed by a rapid expansion of these pores when the energy barrier for the formation of hydrophilic pores is overcome (breakdown).
ASJC Scopus subject areas