We present a study of the variability of the minimal transmembrane voltage resulting in detectable electroporation of the plasma membrane of spherical and irregularly shaped CHO cells (we denote this voltage by ITVc). Electroporation was detected by monitoring the influx of Ca(2+), and the transmembrane voltage was computed on a 3D finite-elements model of each cell constructed from its cross-section images. We found that ITVc was highly variable, particularly in irregularly shaped cells, where it ranged from 512-1028 mV. We show that this range is much too large to be an artifact due to numerical errors and experimental inaccuracies, implying that for cells of the same type and exposed to the same number of pulses with the same duration, the value of ITVc can differ considerably from one cell to another. We also observed that larger cells are in many cases characterized by a higher ITVc than a smaller one. This is in qualitative agreement with the reports that higher membrane curvature facilitates electroporation, but quantitative considerations suggest that the observed variability of ITVc cannot be attributed entirely to the differences in membrane curvature.



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