Calculation of time constants for intracellular diffusion in whole cell patch clamp configuration

Biophys J. 1988 Nov;54(5):791-9. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(88)83017-0.


We present a simplified model to identify and analyze the important variables governing the diffusion of substances from pipettes into canine cardiac Purkinje cells in the whole cell patch clamp configuration. We show that diffusion of substances through the pipette is the major barrier for equilibration of the pipette and cellular contents. We solve numerically the one-dimensional diffusion equation for different pipette geometries, and we derive a simple analytic equation which allows one to estimate the time necessary to reach the steady state of intracellular concentration. The time constant of the transient to steady state is given by a pipette geometric factor times the cell volume divided by the diffusion coefficient of the substance of interest. The geometric factor is shown to be given by the ratio of pipette resistance to the resistivity of the filling solution. Additionally from our modeling, we concluded that pipette perfusion at distances greater than 20 microns from the pipette tip would not substantially reduce the time necessary to achieve the steady state.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Diffusion
  • Heart / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Perfusion