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Nature. 1979 Oct 11;281(5731):497-9.

Evidence for a charge-shift electrochromic mechanism in a probe of membrane potential.


Extrinsic optical probes have become important tools for monitoring membrane potential, with probes now available for many tissue or cell suspension systems. In each case that has been studied in detail, it seems that the mechanism involves a shift in the equilibrium population of the probe from one chemical environment to another in response to the transmembrane potential; the environments perturb the probe's spectrum differently. As this indirect mechanism involves a redistribution of dye between chemical environments that are likely to vary if a given probe is transferred from one membrane to another, a potential probe that is effective and calibrated for all membrane systems has not been realised. We present here evidence for a direct response of a probe chromophore to the electric field across membrane systems. The results suggest it might be possible to develop a universal set of membrane probes.

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