Previous work has shown that the application of the Joule heating temperature jump technique of Eigen and de Maeyer to an istonic suspension of human erythrocytes induced an interiorization of [3H-A1glucose and a hemolysis of the red cells (Tsong, T.Y., and E. Kingsley, J. Biol. Chem. 250:786 ). The result was interpreted as due to the thermal osmosis effect. Further considerations of the various effects of the Joule heating technique indicate that the hemolysis of the red cells may also be caused by the rapid dielectric perturbation of the cell membranes. By means of turbidity measurements of the suspensions we have detected at least four relaxation times. Two of the faster ones (tau1 approximately 20 mus and tau2 approximately 5 ms) are tentatively attributed to water relaxations in the membrane structures. The other two are attributed to membrane ruptures (tlag approximately 0.1s) and the hemolysis reaction (tau3 approximately 0.5 s). Studies with the erythrocytes from different hematological disorders indicate that whereas the two slower relaxations are sensitive to the overall physical property of the red cell membranes the two faster relaxations are not. These observations are consistent with the above assignment of the relaxation processes. The apparent activation energies are, above assignment of the relaxation processes. The apparent activation energies are, respectively, 8.4, 12.0, and 11.8 kcal/mol for the tau1, tau2, and tau3 reactions. Experiments with erythrocyte ghosts indicate a single relaxation for the water permeation, and biphasic kinetics for the membrane rupture and resealing reactions. The phenomena reported here may contribute to our understanding of water transport and molecular release in cellular systems.
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