Asymmetrical transmembrane potential in intracellular organelles of adrenal chromaffin cells exposed to nanosecond electric pulses
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In our research on exploring the effects of 5 ns, high intensity electric pulses on neurosecretory adrenal chromaffin cells, cell modeling has played an important role in understanding and explaining the experimental results. Externally applied nanosecond-duration electric pulses (NEPs) can affect cells by creating nanopores in the cell and intracellular organelle membranes, making these membranes permeable to certain ions. A chromaffin cell contains, at a minimum, 7000 secretory granules plus other organelles such as mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum. In all the biological cell models constructed in the literature, there is no evidence of asymmetrical Transmembrane Potential (TMP) distribution in the intracellular membranes. However, these models do not include a realistic number of intracellular organelles. The goal of this research was to construct a more realistic cell model that incorporates a large number of secretory granules in the cytosol. To this end, a beta-version of the real-valued unstructured mesh Finite Element Method (FEM) electro-quasi-static module in Sim4life (SPEAG, Switzerland) has been used to model a chromaffin cell in which 1000 secretory granules are included in the cytosol. The model is, we believe, the most detailed geometrical cell model developed. It includes a spherical chromaffin cell (radius 8 $\mu m$), nucleus (radius 2.5 mu m) located off-center, 500 granules (radius 200 nm) randomly located within a distance of 2 $\mu m$ from the surface of the nucleus, and additional 500 granules randomly located in the remaining region of the cytosol. Cell and granule membrane thickness was set to 5 nm and nuclear membrane thickness to 10 nm. Dielectric properties of all constituents of the model were obtained from the literature or measured. Because the FEM Low Frequency solver is a quasi-static solver and not capable of accepting a time-varying pulse as input, all computations have been performed at single frequencies in the range DC to 60 MHz, sampled from the Fourier spectrum of the actual 5 ns pulse used in experiments. Electric field and TMP distributions have been computed in the cell model as a function of frequency, granule radius, and orientation of the applied E-field.Results show that granules located in the vicinity of the equatorial side of the nucleus had a higher TMP magnitude than the rest of the granules. In contrast, granules located in the vicinity of the poles of the nucleus had a lower TMP magnitude. The TMP distribution in the granules was strongly dependent on their location with respect to the nucleus and could exhibit asymmetries. Clearly, the nucleus had an influence on the TMP of the surrounding granules and the region of influence extended to a radial distance of 2 mu m from the nucleus. Creating a realistic model of a chromaffin cell is fundamental in order to estimate the TMP and electric field in a chromaffin cell. Such knowledge is important for understanding the impact of NEPs on the modulation of hormone secretion.