"Nanosized voltmeter" enables cellular-wide electric field mapping

Author: Katherine M Tyner1, Raoul Kopelman, Martin A Philbert
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Toxicology Program and Chemistry Department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA.
Conference/Journal: Biophys J
Date published: 2007 Aug 15
Other: Volume ID: 93 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 1163-74 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.092452. , Word Count: 154

Previously, all biological measurements of intracellular electric fields (E fields), using voltage dyes or patch/voltage clamps, were confined to cellular membranes, which account for <0.1% of the total cellular volume. These membrane-dependent techniques also frequently require lengthy calibration steps for each cell or cell type measured. A new 30-nm "photonic voltmeter", 1000-fold smaller than existing voltmeters, enables, to our knowledge, the first complete three-dimensional E field profiling throughout the entire volume of living cells. These nanodevices are calibrated externally and then applied for E field determinations inside any live cell or cellular compartment, with no further calibration steps. The results indicate that the E fields from the mitochondrial membranes penetrate much deeper into the cytosol than previously estimated, indicating that, electrically, the cytoplasm cannot be described as a simple homogeneous solution, as often approximated, but should rather be thought of as a complex, heterogeneous hydrogel, with distinct microdomains.

PMID: 17513359 PMCID: PMC1929021 DOI: 10.1529/biophysj.106.092452