Gravity dependency of the gramicidin A channel conductivity. A model for gravity perception on the cellular level.

Abstract

Theoretical investigations involving the membrane-solution interface have revealed that the density of the solution varies appreciably within interfacial layers adjacent to charged membrane surfaces. The hypothesis that gravity interacts with this configuration and modifies transport rates across horizontal and vertical membranes differently was supported by initial experiments with gramicidin A channels in phosphatidylserine (PS) membranes in 0.1 M KCl. Channel conductivity was found to be about 1.6 times higher in horizontal membranes than in vertical membranes. Here we present the results of further experiments with gramicidin A channels (incorporated into charged PS- and uncharged phosphatidylcholine (PC) membranes in KCl- and CsCl-solutions) to demonstrate that the hypothesis is more generally applicable. Again, channel conductivity was found to be higher in horizontal PS membranes by a factor of between 1.20 and 1.75 in 0.1 M CsCl. No difference in channel conductivity was found for uncharged PC membranes in 0.1 M KCl and in 0.1 M CsCl. However, for PC membranes in 0.05 M KCl the channel conductivity was significantly higher in horizontal membranes by a factor of between 1.07 and 1.14. These results are consistent with the results of our model calculations of layer density and extension, which showed that the layer formation is enhanced by increasing membrane surface charge and decreasing electrolyte ion concentration. The mechanism of gravity interaction with membrane transport processes via interface reactions might be utilized by biological systems for orientational behaviour in the gravity field, which has been observed even for cellular systems.