It is widely accepted that electroporation occurs when the cell transmembrane voltage induced by an external applied electric field reaches a threshold. Under this assumption, in order to trigger electroporation in a spherical cell, Schwan’s equation leads to an inversely proportional relationship between the cell radius and the minimum magnitude of the applied electric field. And, indeed, several publications report experimental evidences of an inverse relationship between the cell size and the field required to achieve electroporation. However, this dependence is not always observed or is not as steep as predicted by Schwan’s equation. The present numerical study attempts to explain these observations that do not fit Schwan’s equation on the basis of the interplay between cell membrane conductivity, permeability, and transmembrane voltage. For that, a single cell in suspension was modeled and the electric field necessary to achieve electroporation with a single pulse was determined according to two effectiveness criteria: a specific permeabilization level, understood as the relative area occupied by the pores during the pulse, and a final intracellular concentration of a molecule due to uptake by diffusion after the pulse, during membrane resealing. The results indicate that plausible model parameters can lead to divergent dependencies of the electric field threshold on the cell radius. These divergent dependencies were obtained through both criteria and using two different permeabilization models. This suggests that the interplay between cell membrane conductivity, permeability, and transmembrane voltage might be the cause of results which are noncompatible with the Schwan’s equation model.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: May 11, 2016
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