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Electrically Active Polyelectrolyte Membranes


SEVERAL lipid membranes1,2 have been described as models for neuronal and other cell membranes, usually based on the lipid bilayer concept of Davson and Danielli3. Such membrane models have the characteristics of insulators with a high specific resistivity and dielectricstrength. They can, however, be changed with certain protein additives, notably the excitability inducing materials of Rudin and Mueller4 to produce membranes with some biological properties. Thus either the protein alone or the protein lipid complex is the important factor for converting the insulator properties of lipids to those resembling biological membranes. This paper describes the preparation and properties of specially prepared polyelectrolyte membranes, containing no lipids, which under a d.c. electric field can spontaneously generate transients with time constants and amplitudes analogous to the spike potentials of neuronal membranes.

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  1. Mueller, P., Rudin, D. O., Tien, H. T., and Woscott, W. C., Nature, 194, 979 (1962).

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  2. Huang, C., and Thompson, T. E., J. Mol. Biol., 13, 183 (1965).

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  3. Davson, H., and Danielli, J. F., in Permeability of Natural Membranes, second ed. (Cambridge University Press, London, 1952).

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  4. Mueller, P., and Rudin, D. O., J. Theoret. Biol, 4, 268 (1963).

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SHASHOUA, V. Electrically Active Polyelectrolyte Membranes. Nature 215, 846–847 (1967).

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