Biophysical journal

Photogating of ionic currents across lipid bilayers. Hydrophobic ion conductance by an ion chain mechanism.

PMID 1489913


The photogating of hydrophobic ion currents across the lipid bilayer membrane allows the direct study of their kinetics by symmetrically forming charge within the membrane and across each interface, rather than across the membrane. We find that the photoinduced conductance continues to increase beyond the region where the tetraphenylboride charge density in the membrane exceeds the estimated porphyrin cation density. This photoconductance is proportional to the tetraphenylboride charge density raised to the second to third power. The risetime of the photogating effect increases with increasing concentration of tetraphenyl boride. The porphyrin cation mobility is increased when the tetraphenylboride anion is present, and low concentrations of tetraphenylphosphonium cation increase the dark conductivity while inhibiting the photoconductivity. The activation energy for both the porphyrin and phosphonium cation induced conductance is more positive than that of the tetraphenylboride conductance. From these results we conclude that in addition to some cancellation of space charge within the membrane, the mechanism of increased conductance involves the transport of these hydrophobic anions via an alternating anion-cation chain, analogous to the Grotthuss mechanism for excess proton conduction in water. This ion chain conductance can be viewed as an evolutionary prototype of an ion channel across the membrane. It also underscores the importance of the counter ion in the transport of large ions such as peptides across the lipid bilayer.