Recognition and processing of randomly fluctuating electric signals by Na,K-ATPase

Biophys J. 1994 Sep;67(3):1247-51. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(94)80594-6.


Previous work has shown that Na,K-ATPase of human erythrocytes can extract free energy from sinusoidal electric fields to pump cations up their respective concentration gradients. Because regularly oscillating waveform is not a feature of the transmembrane electric potential of cells, questions have been raised whether these observed effects are biologically relevant. Here we show that a random-telegraph fluctuating electric field (RTF) consisting of alternating square electric pulses with random lifetimes can also stimulate the Rb(+)-pumping mode of the Na,K-ATPase. The net RTF-stimulated, ouabain-sensitive Rb+ pumping was monitored with 86Rb+. The tracer-measured, Rb+ influx exhibited frequency and amplitude dependencies that peaked at the mean frequency of 1.0 kHz and amplitude of 20 V/cm. At 4 degrees C, the maximal pumping activity under these optimal conditions was 28 Rb+/RBC-hr, which is approximately 50% higher than that obtained with the sinusoidal electric field. These findings indicate that Na,K-ATPase can recognize an electric signal, either regularly oscillatory or randomly fluctuating, for energy coupling, with high fidelity. The use of RTF for activation also allowed a quantitative theoretical analysis of kinetics of a membrane transport model of any complexity according to the theory of electroconformational coupling (ECC) by the diagram methods. A four-state ECC model was shown to produce the amplitude and the frequency windows of the Rb(+)-pumping if the free energy of interaction of the transporter with the membrane potential was to include a nonlinear quadratic term. Kinetic constants for the ECC model have been derived. These results indicate that the ECC is a plausible mechanism for the recognition and processing of electric signals by proteins of the cell membrane.

MeSH terms

  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Electrochemistry
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / enzymology
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ion Pumps / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Chemical
  • Protein Conformation
  • Rubidium / pharmacokinetics
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / blood
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / chemistry*


  • Ion Pumps
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase
  • Rubidium