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Biophys J. 1989 Feb;55(2):331-8.

Dielectric properties of Artemia cysts at low water contents. Evidence for a percolative transition.

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Dipartimento di Fisica, Universita di Roma I, Italy.


Cellular cysts of the crustacean Artemia provide a useful model for studies on water-dependent mechanisms in cellular function because they can undergo reversible cycles of dehydration-rehydration. We explored their dielectric behavior over the frequency range of 10 kHz to 1 MHz, at water contents between near zero and 0.5 g H2O/g dry weight (g/g). The dc conductivity and static dielectric permittivity were evaluated from electrostatic analysis of data obtained with a three-layered capacitor. Below cyst hydrations of 0.05 g/g, negligible dielectric response was observed at all frequencies. Between 0.05 and 0.25 g/g the permittivity increased sharply then reached a near plateau up to cyst hydrations close to 0.35 g/g, above which a second abrupt increase occurred. Values for the dielectric loss (tan delta) exhibited frequency-dependent peaks over the hydration range of 0.05-0.3 g/g, followed by an abrupt increase near 0.35 g/g, an hydration at which metabolism is first initiated in this system. These hydration-dependent dielectric changes are compared with previous studies on the biology and physics of this system, and evaluated by a model involving percolative ionic (likely protonic) conduction. Percolative behavior is characterized by a sharp increase in conductivity at a critical threshold of hydration (hc) according to a power law in which the exponent, t, equals 1.65 for a three-dimensional infinite lattice. For the Artemia cyst, t = 1.64 above hc = 0.35 g/g, which is in excellent agreement with theory. These results are compared to similar studies on lysozyme which also exhibits percolative behavior connected with the onset of biological function.

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