Distinct electric potentials in soma and neurite membranes

Neuron. 1994 Nov;13(5):1187-93. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(94)90056-6.


Structurally similar voltage-dependent ion channels may behave differently in different locations along the surface of a neuron. A possible reason could be that channels experience nonuniform electrical potentials along the plasmalemma. Here, we map the electrical potentials along the membrane of differentiated N1E-115 neuroblastoma cells with a potential-sensitive dye. We find that the intramembrane potential gradient is indeed more positive in the membranes of neurites than in the membranes of somata. This is not attributable to differences in ion conductances or surface charge densities between the membranes of neurites and somata; instead, it can be explained by differences in lipid composition. The spatial variation in intramembrane electrical potential may help account for electrophysiological and functional differences between neurites and somata.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholesterol / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Lipids / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials*
  • Mice
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Cholesterol