Changes in electroporation thresholds of lipid membranes by surfactants and peptides

Leslie Tung, Greg C. Troiano, Vinod Sharma, Robert M. Raphael, Kathleen J. Stebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews recent work from our laboratory that explores how chemical additives may alter the threshold of electroporation of synthetic lipid bilayers. The addition of the nonionic block copolymeric surfactant, poloxamer 188 (P188), at a concentration of 1 mM increased the electroporation thresholds of planar lipid bilayer membranes made of azolectin. For a 10-μs rectangular pulse, P188-treated membranes were found to have a statistically higher threshold voltage, longer latency time to rupture, and lower postpulse conductance. Addition of the nonionic surfactant, octaethyleneglgcol-mono-n-dodecyl-ether (C12E8), decreased the electroporation threshold of bilayer membranes made of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) by 10-40% for 10-μs- to 10-s-duration pulses, in a concentration-dependent manner over concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 10 mM. Postpulse membrane conductance also increased. The opposite effects of the two surfactants on electroporation thresholds may result from their very different structures, which would encourage different modes of surfactant-lipid interactions. To elamine protein-lipid interactions and their effects on the electroporation threshold, the effects of a channel-forming polypeptide, gramicidin D (gD), was studied on membrane conductance and electroporation threshold. Electroporation thresholds for 15-ms pulses were unaffected by addition of gramicidin to POPC at a peptide:lipid concentration estimated to be 1:10,000, but increased significantly at ratios of 1:500 and 1:15, while membrane conductance increased monotonically with peptide concentration. A micropipette aspiration technique was applied to giant unilamellar POPC vesicles to measure changes in the membrane physical properties. When gD was added to give an estimated peptide:lipid ratio of 1:15, the membrane area expansivity modulus increased, indicating that the increase in electroporation threshold is correlated with a change in membrane stiffness. Thus, these findings demonstrate that surfactants or peptides can mediate the electroporation threshold of lipid bilayers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-265
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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