Forces across Membranes

  • Peter R. Bergethon


Much of the chemistry and functional physiology of the cell, including energy production, protein synthesis, hormone and antigen binding, stimulus-response coupling, and nutrient adsorption, occurs at the cell membrane. The membrane is an anisotropic, nonhomogeneous matrix of lipids, proteins, and, in some cases, carbohydrates in intimate contact with aqueous-dominated interphases. The nature and treatment of aqueous solutions, membrane properties, and interphase structure have all been presented in previous chapters. The task ahead is to highlight this knowledge by examining limited aspects of the behavior or action of biochemical systems. This chapter will be a segue into our discussion of the movement of a system over a potential energy surface, which we will take up in Part 5. Now we focus on describing the forces operating at and across the membrane. Then we will examine the role of the membrane in modulating the flow of materials.


Diffusion Potential Polar Head Group Solvation Layer Chemical Potential Gradient Water Permeation 
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Further Reading


  1. Heinz E. (1981) Electrical Potentials in Biological Membrane Transport. Springer-Verlag, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hille B. (1992) Ionic Channels of Excitable Membranes, 2d ed. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA. Israelachvili J. (1992) Intermolecular and Surface Forces, 2d ed. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  3. Kotyk A., Janacek K., and Koryta J. (1988) Biophysical Chemistry of Membrane Functions. John Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar

Specific Articles

  1. Cafiso D., McLaughlin A., McLaughlin S., and Winiski A. (1989) Measuring electrostatic potentials adjacent to membranes. Methods in Enzymology, 171: 342–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Itoh S., and Nishimura M (1986) Rate of redox reactions related to surface potential and other surface-related parameters in biological membranes, Methods in Enzymology, 125: 58–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Jordan P. C. (1986) “Ion Channel Electrostatics and the Shapes of Channel Proteins” in Miller C., ed. Ion Channel Reconstitution. Plenum Press, New York. Krämer R. (1989) Modulation of membrane protein function by surface potential. Methods in Enzymology, 171: 387–94.Google Scholar
  4. McLaughlin S. (1977) Electrostatic potentials at membrane-solution interfaces. Cure Topics Membranes and Transport, 9: 71–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McLaughlin S. (1989) The electrostatic properties of membranes. Ann. Rev. Biophys. Biophys. Chem. 18: 113–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Neher E., and Sakmann B. (1992) The patch clamp technique. Sci. Am., 266 (3): 44–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Stühner W. (1991) Structure-function studies of voltage-gated ion channels. Ann. Rev. Biophys. Biophys. Chem., 20: 65–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter R. Bergethon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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