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Biophys J. 2010 Jun 2;98(11):2506-14. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.02.035.

Mechanisms for the intracellular manipulation of organelles by conventional electroporation.

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Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Conventional electroporation (EP) changes both the conductance and molecular permeability of the plasma membrane (PM) of cells and is a standard method for delivering both biologically active and probe molecules of a wide range of sizes into cells. However, the underlying mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels remain controversial. Here we introduce a mathematical cell model that contains representative organelles (nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria) and includes a dynamic EP model, which describes formation, expansion, contraction, and destruction for the plasma and all organelle membranes. We show that conventional EP provides transient electrical pathways into the cell, sufficient to create significant intracellular fields. This emerging intracellular electrical field is a secondary effect due to EP and can cause transmembrane voltages at the organelles, which are large enough and long enough to gate organelle channels, and even sufficient, at some field strengths, for the poration of organelle membranes. This suggests an alternative to nanosecond pulsed electric fields for intracellular manipulations.

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