Mechanisms and Implications of Nanoelectroporation in Living Cells

The most remarkable effect of nsEP is opening of long-lived, voltage- and current-sensitive, rectifying, ion-selective, asymmetrical pores of nano- or sub-nanometer diameter (“nanopores”). These complex behaviors are normally expected only from sophisticated devices like protein ion channels and distinguish nanopores from conventional (larger) electropores. Once induced, nanopores oscillate between open and quasi-open (electrically silent) states for minutes, followed by either gradual resealing or abrupt breakdown into larger pores, with immediate loss of nanopore-specific properties. Nanopores appear adequately equipped for certain functions that are traditionally ascribed to classic ion channels, and potentially may form under physiological and pathological conditions to supplement ion channels as an additional ion transport pathway.

We explore the phenomenon of nanoelectroporation in living cells, focusing on the underlying physico-chemical and physiological mechanisms. We also explore nanopore properties and lifetime, as well as many downstream effects of cell membrane permeabilization.