BACKGROUND: Electroporation is a method of disrupting the integrity of cell membrane by electric pulses (EPs). Electrical modeling is widely employed to explain and study electroporation, but even most advanced models show limited predictive power. No studies have accounted for the biological consequences of electroporation as a factor that alters the cell's susceptibility to forthcoming EPs.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We focused first on the role of EP rate for membrane permeabilization and lethal effects in mammalian cells. The rate was varied from 0.001 to 2,000 Hz while keeping other parameters constant (2 to 3,750 pulses of 60-ns to 9-micros duration, 1.8 to 13.3 kV/cm). The efficiency of all EP treatments was minimal at high rates and started to increase gradually when the rate decreased below a certain value. Although this value ranged widely (0.1-500 Hz), it always corresponded to the overall treatment duration near 10 s. We further found that longer exposures were more efficient irrespective of the EP rate, and that splitting a high-rate EP train in two fractions with 1-5 min delay enhanced the effects severalfold.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: For varied experimental conditions, EPs triggered a delayed and gradual sensitization to EPs. When a portion of a multi-pulse exposure was delivered to already sensitized cells, the overall effect markedly increased. Because of the sensitization, the lethality in EP-treated cells could be increased from 0 to 90% simply by increasing the exposure duration, or the exposure dose could be reduced twofold without reducing the effect. Many applications of electroporation can benefit from accounting for sensitization, by organizing the exposure either to maximize sensitization (e.g., for sterilization) or, for other applications, to completely or partially avoid it. In particular, harmful side effects of electroporation-based therapies (electrochemotherapy, gene therapies, tumor ablation) include convulsions, pain, heart fibrillation, and thermal damage. Sensitization can potentially be employed to reduce these side effects while preserving or increasing therapeutic efficiency.
Original Publication Citation
Pakhomova, O.N., Gregory, B.W., Khorokhorina, V.A., Bowman, A.M., Xiao, S., & Pakhomov, A.G. (2011). Electroporation-induced electrosensitization. PLoS One, 6(2), e17100. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017100
Pakhomova, Olga N.; Gregory, Betsy W.; Khorokhorina, Vera A.; Bowman, Anglela M.; Xiao, Shu; and Pakhomov, Andrei G., "Electroporation-Induced Electrosensitization" (2011). Bioelectrics Publications. 35.