Biophysics and structure of the patch and the gigaseal

Biophys J. 2009 Aug 5;97(3):738-47. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.05.018.


Interpreting channel behavior in patches requires an understanding of patch structure and dynamics, especially in studies of mechanosensitive channels. High resolution optical studies show that patch formation occurs via blebbing that disrupts normal membrane structure and redistributes in situ components including ion channels. There is a 1-2 microm region of the seal below the patch where proteins are excluded and this may consist of extracted lipids that form the gigaseal. Patch domes often have complex geometries with inhomogeneous stresses due to the membrane-glass adhesion energy (E(a)), cytoskeletal forces, and possible lipid subdomains. The resting tension in the patch dome ranges from 1-4 mN/m, a significant fraction of the lytic tension of a bilayer ( approximately 10 mN/m). Thus, all patch experiments are conducted under substantial, and uneven, resting tension that may alter the kinetics of many channels. E(a) seems dominated by van der Waals attraction overlaid with a normally repulsive Coulombic force. High ionic strength pipette saline increased E(a) and, surprisingly, increased cytoskeletal rigidity in cell-attached patches. Low pH pipette saline also increased E(a) and reduced the seal selectivity for cations, presumably by neutralizing the membrane surface charge. The seal is a negatively charged, cation selective, space with a resistance of approximately 7 gigohm/microm in 100 mM KCl, and the high resistivity of the space may result from the presence of high viscosity glycoproteins. Patches creep up the pipette over time with voltage independent and voltage dependent components. Voltage-independent creep is expected from the capillary attraction of E(a) and the flow of fresh lipids from the cell. Voltage-dependent creep seems to arise from electroosmosis in the seal. Neutralization of negative charges on the seal membrane with low pH decreased the creep rate and reversed the direction of creep at positive pipette potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Elasticity / physiology
  • Electroosmosis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods*
  • Potassium Chloride / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Video Recording


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Potassium Chloride