Calcium bursts induced by nanosecond electric pulses

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Oct 17;310(2):286-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2003.08.140.


We report here real-time imaging of calcium bursts in human lymphocytes exposed to nanosecond, megavolt-per-meter pulsed electric fields. Ultra-short (less than 30 ns), high-field (greater than 1 MV/m), electric pulses induce increases in cytosolic calcium concentration and translocation of phosphatidylserine (PS) to the outer layer of the plasma membrane in Jurkat T lymphoblasts. Pulse-induced calcium bursts occur within milliseconds and PS externalization within minutes. Caspase activation and other indicators of apoptosis follow these initial symptoms of nanosecond pulse exposure. Pulse-induced PS translocation is observed even in the presence of caspase inhibitors. Ultra-short, high-field, electroperturbative pulse effects differ substantially from those associated with electroporation, where pulses of a few tens of kilovolts-per-meter lasting a few tens of microseconds open pores in the cytoplasmic membrane. Nanosecond pulsed electric fields, because their duration is less than the plasma membrane charging time, develop voltages across intracellular structures without porating the cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Electroporation*
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport / drug effects
  • Ionophores / pharmacology
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Kinetics
  • Periodicity
  • Phosphatidylserines / analysis
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Ionophores
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Sodium
  • Calcium