ECN 3/e - 3
Chapter 1: Nerve andMuscle Physiology
Physiology of excitable tissue
Membranes are composed of lipid bilayers through which proteins are inserted. Theextracellular and intracellular fluids are composed of ionic solutions. The positive ions(cations) are mainly sodium (Na
), potassium (K
), and Calcium (Ca
). The anions aremainly chloride (Cl
) and negatively-charged proteins (which we will call Prot
). Theionic fluids are good conductors of electricity, since they allow or free-flow of the ions.However, the lipid bilayer is a good insulator, essentially making the extracellular andintracellular fluids separate conductors.Some of the membrane proteins are channels which allow certain ions to pass. Other proteins are pumps which actively push ions through the membranes against aconcentration gradient. The sodium-potassium pump pushes sodium out of the cell while pushing potassium into the cell. This creates a chemical gradient for sodium to go into thecell and potassium out of the cell. Without the channel proteins, virtually none of the ionswould move in or out of the cell,however, the channel proteinsallow for controlled movement of the ions.The channel proteins have veryspecific functions andcharacteristics. At rest, the potassium channel is open and thesodium and chloride channel arelargely closed. During an action potential the sodium channelopens for a brief time then closes.Inhibitory stimuli produceopening of a channel which allows both potassium and chloride.The next sections discuss howthese functions produce theelectrical properties of nerve andmuscle.
Figure 1-1: Membrane structure and function.
: Lipid bilayer membrane is impermeable to ions, but thereare ion channels traversing the membrane.
: Diagrammatic representation of the lipid bilayer membrane with ionic channels which allow ions to movedown electrochemical gradients, and ion pumps whichestablish the chemical gradients,