The effect of a nontoxic, nonionic block co-polymeric surface active agent, poloxamer 188, on electroporation of artificial lipid membranes made of azolectin, was investigated. Two different experimental protocols were used in our study: charge pulse and voltage clamp. For the charge pulse protocol, membranes were pulsed with a 10-μs rectangular voltage waveform, after which membrane voltage decay was observed through an external 1-MΩ resistance. For the voltage clamp protocol the membranes were pulsed with a waveform that consisted of an initial 10-μs rectangular phase, followed by a negative sloped ramp that decayed to zero in the subsequent 500 μs. Several parameters characterizing the electroporation process were measured and compared for the control membranes and membranes treated with 1.0 mM poloxamer 188. For both the charge pulse and voltage clamp experiments, the threshold voltage (amplitude of initial rectangular phase) and latency time (time elapsed between the end of rectangular phase and the onset of membrane electroporation) were measured. Membrane conductance (measured 200 μs after the initial rectangular phase) and rise time (t(r); the time required for the porated membrane to reach a certain conductance value) were also determined for the voltage clamp experiments, and postelectroporation time constant (PEτ; the time constant for transmembrane voltage decay after onset of electroporation) for the charge pulse experiments. The charge pulse experiments were performed on 23 membranes with 10 control and 13 poloxamer- treated membranes, and voltage pulse experiments on 49 membranes with 26 control and 23 poloxamer-treated membranes. For both charge pulse and voltage clamp experiments, poloxamer 188-treated membranes exhibited a statistically higher threshold voltage (p = 0.1 and p = 0.06, respectively), and longer latency time (p = 0.04 and p = 0.05, respectively). Also, poloxamer 188- treated membranes were found to have a relatively lower conductance (p = 0.001), longer time required for the porated membrane to reach a certain conductance value (p = 0.05), and longer postelectroporation time constant (p = 0.005). Furthermore, addition of poloxamer 188 was found to reduce the membrane capacitance by ~4-8% in 5 min. These findings suggest that poloxamer 188 adsorbs into the lipid bilayers, thereby decreasing their susceptibility to electroporation.
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