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Bioelectrochem Bioenerg. 1999 Feb;48(1):17-25.

Chinese hamster ovary cells sensitivity to localized electrical stresses.

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Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale, CNRS UPR 9062, Toulouse, France.


Application of an external electric field on a cell suspension induces an alteration in the membrane structure giving free access to the cell cytoplasm. Under mild pulsation conditions, permeabilization is a reversible process which weakly affects cell viability while drastic electrical conditions lead to cell death. The field pulse must be considered as a complex stress applied on the cell assembly. This study is a systematic investigation of the stress effects of field strength, pulse duration and number of pulses, at given joule energy. The loss in cell viability is not related to the energy delivered to the system. At a given joule energy, a strong field during a short cumulated pulse duration affects more viability than using a weak field associated with a long cumulated pulsation. At a given field strength and for a given cumulated pulse duration an accumulation of short pulses is also observed to be very damaging for cells. A control by the delay between the pulses suggests a memory effect. The field effect appears also to be vectorial in line with the known asymmetry of the membrane organization. These results suggest that processes at a cellular level are involved, either an activation of cell death or damage in cellular functions.

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