Molecular crowding has no effect on the dilution thermodynamics of the biologically relevant cation mixtures

Gen Physiol Biophys. 2017 Apr;36(2):197-204. doi: 10.4149/gpb_2016029. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


The ionic composition of intracellular space is rigorously maintained in the expense of high-energy expenditure. It has been recently postulated that the cytoplasmic ionic composition is optimized so the energy cost of the fluctuations of calcium ion concentration is minimized. Specifically, thermodynamic arguments have been produced to show that the presence of potassium ions at concentrations higher than 100 mM reduce extend of the energy dissipation required for the dilution of calcium cations. No such effect has been measured when sodium ions were present in the solution or when the other divalent cation magnesium was diluted. The experimental observation has been interpreted as the indication of the formation of ionic clusters composed of calcium, chloride and potassium. In order to test the possibility that such clusters may be preserved in biological space, the thermodynamics of ionic mixtures dilution in solutions containing albumins and model lipid bilayers have been measured. Obtained thermograms clearly demonstrate that the energetics of calcium/potassium mixture is qualitatively different from calcium/sodium mixture indicating that the presence of the biologically relevant quantities of proteins and membrane hydrophilic surfaces do not interfere with the properties of the intracellular aqueous phase.

MeSH terms

  • Biopolymers / chemistry*
  • Cations / chemistry*
  • Complex Mixtures / chemistry*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Indicator Dilution Techniques
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Solutions / chemistry*
  • Thermodynamics*


  • Biopolymers
  • Cations
  • Complex Mixtures
  • Solutions