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Biophys J. 1997 Apr;72(4):1711-8.

The effect of a transmembrane osmotic flux on the ion concentration distribution in the immediate membrane vicinity measured by microelectrodes.

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Martin-Luther-Universităt, Medizinische Fakultät, Institut für Medizinische Physik und Biophysik, Halle, Germany.


The osmotically induced transmembrane water flow is accompanied by solute concentration changes within the unstirred layer adjacent to membranes. Experimental concentration profiles, measured by means of microelectrodes in the immediate vicinity of a planar lipid bilayer, are compared with theoretical ones predicted from the standard physiological model in which the osmotic advection is countered by back-diffusion of the solute only. An increase of the apparent osmotic flow rate is induced by an increase of the osmotic gradient and by rigorous stirring. The polarization effect decreases in the latter case due to an increase of the transfer rate of solutes between the bulk solutions and the membrane surfaces, whereas it increases in the former case. The observations show that the concentration profile is not well described by the standard approximation. The discrepancy becomes increasingly large with increased volume flow. Based on a modified theoretical description of the interaction between water flux and diffusion, the hydraulic conductivity of the bilayer is calculated from the measured uniexponential concentration profiles. The common approximation that there is a discrete boundary between the stirred and unstirred regions adjacent to the membrane is substituted by the model of a stagnant point flow that takes into account a gradual change of the stirring velocity in the immediate membrane vicinity. Supported by experimental observations, this approach predicts a shortening of the unstirred layer if the transmembrane osmotic gradient is increased under gentle stirring conditions.

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