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Electrostatic modeling of ion pores. Energy barriers and electric field profiles.

By P C Jordan


This paper presents calculations of the image potential for an ion in an aqueous pore through lipid membrane and the electric field produced in such a pore when a transmembrane potential is applied. The method used is one introduced by Levitt (1978, Biophys. J. 22:209), who solved an equivalent problem, in which a surface charge density is placed at the dielectric boundary. It is shown that there are singularities in this surface charge density if the model system has sharp corners. Numerically accurate calculations require exact treatment of these singularities. The major result of this paper is the development of a projection method that explicitly accounts for this behavior. It is shown how this technique can be used to compute, both reliably and efficiently, the electrical potential within a model pore in response to any electrical source. As the length of a channel with fixed radius is increased, the peak in the image potential approaches that of an infinitely long channel more rapidly than previously believed. When a transmembrane potential is applied the electric field within a pore is constant over most of its length. Unless the channel is much longer than its radius, the field extends well into the aqueous domain. For sufficiently dissimilar dielectrics the calculated values for the peak in the image potential and for the field well within the pore can be summarized by simple empirical expressions that are accurate to within 5%

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