Electroporation is a dramatic cell membrane phenomenon that is of growing
importance to biology, biotechnology, and medicine. Electroporation caused
by short pulses occurs at a transmembrane voltage of about 1000 mV for many
different types of cell and artificial membranes. Here we describe the
development of a theoretical model that predicts measurable quantities. An
underlying theme of our general approach is the hypothesis that
electroconformational or structural changes of (1) the membrane itself;
(2) membrane macromolecules, and (3) membrane-macromolecule complexes can
provide a general basis for electric field interactions with cells.
Electroporation theory is presently based on the membrane itself and can
be expected to also involve membrane-macromolecule complexes. In related
nonelectroporation work, we hypothesized that membrane macromolecules are
relevant to understanding possible weak electric field interactions, and
we have estimated the threshold field, E(e,min) associated with the thermal
noise limit for the response of living cells to weak electric fields.