European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 47, Issue 8, pp 865–867 | Cite as

Comment on Tamagawa and Ikeda’s reinterpretation of the Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz equation

Are transmembrane potentials caused by polarization?
  • Thomas HeimburgEmail author
Biophysics Letter

The emergence of electrical fields across biological membranes is central to our present understanding of biomembrane function. The most prominent example is the textbook model for the action potential (Hodgkin and Huxley 1952) that relies on transmembrane voltage and membrane permeability. In a recent article, an important underlying concept, the Goldman–Hodgkin–Katz equation, has been challenged (Tamagawa and Ikeda 2018). This will be discussed below.

In the view of electrophysiology, the transmembrane voltage is the consequence of the existence of semi-permeable walls, i.e., a membrane that in some regions is only permeable to a particular ion, e.g., potassium, and impermeable to other ions. Other regions of the membrane may display selectivity for different ions, e.g., sodium. The Nernst–Planck equation considers the transmembrane ion current as the sum of the charge flow in the electrical field, and the diffusive currents due to ion concentration differences (Goldman 1943). It is...


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Copyright information

© European Biophysical Societies' Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Niels Bohr InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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