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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jul 15;307(2):E161-75. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00446.2013. Epub 2014 May 27.

Etiology of the membrane potential of rat white fat adipocytes.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom.
School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom


The plasma membrane potential (Vm) is key to many physiological processes; however, its ionic etiology in white fat adipocytes is poorly characterized. To address this question, we employed the perforated patch current clamp and cell-attached patch clamp methods in isolated primary white fat adipocytes and their cellular model 3T3-L1. The resting Vm of primary and 3T3-L1 adipocytes were -32.1 ± 1.2 mV (n = 95) and -28.8 ± 1.2 mV (n = 87), respectively. Vm was independent of cell size and fat content. Elevation of extracellular K(+) to 50 mM by equimolar substitution of bath Na(+) did not affect Vm, whereas substitution of bath Na(+) with the membrane-impermeant cation N-methyl-D-glucamine(+)-hyperpolarized Vm by 16 mV, data indicative of a nonselective cation permeability. Substitution of 133 mM extracellular Cl(-) with gluconate-depolarized Vm by 25 mV, whereas Cl(-) substitution with I(-) caused a -9 mV hyperpolarization. Isoprenaline (10 μM), but not insulin (100 nM), significantly depolarized Vm. Single-channel ion activity was voltage independent; currents were indicative for Cl(-) with an inward slope conductance of 16 ± 1.3 pS (n = 11) and a reversal potential close to the Cl(-) equilibrium potential, -29 ± 1.6 mV. Although the reduction of extracellular Cl(-) elevated the intracellular Ca(2+) of adipocytes, this was not as large as that produced by elevation of extracellular K(+). In conclusion, the Vm of white fat adipocytes is well described by the Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation with a predominant permeability to Cl(-), where its biophysical and single-channel properties suggest a volume-sensitive anion channel identity. Consequently, changes in serum Cl(-) homeostasis or the adipocyte's permeability to this anion via drugs will affect its Vm, intracellular Ca(2+), and ultimately its function and its role in metabolic control.


3T3-L1 cells; adipocyte; chloride; membrane potential; white fat

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