Quincy Huynh

Mr. Ting
AP Chemistry Period 2
June 1, 2012
Electrochemistry in Our eurons
Electrochemistry is !n integr!l "!rt o# gener!l chemistry !s it t!$es into !ccount
th!t ions #rom met!l concentr!tions c!n "roduce ! #lo% o# electrons, or electricity.
Ho%e&er, this #lo% o# energy c!n rel!te to li#e, !s org!nisms h!&e ! %!y to utili'e
electricity to "er#orm li#e #unctions, "!rticul!rly in the hum!n ner&ous system. This is the
#ield o# (ioelectrochemistry, %hich integr!tes chemic!l re!ctions de!ling %ith electric!l
currents !nd "otenti!ls to li#e. )ut li$e the sim"le de#inition o# (iochemistry, it goes
(eyond the (re!$do%n o# its n!me. *ts m!in to"ics h!&e to de!l %ith c!lcul!tions o# cell
mem(r!ne "otenti!ls. Cell mem(r!ne "otenti!ls !re im"ort!nt in electric!l sign!ls !mong
neurons. eurons !re cruci!l to ho% org!nisms li&e (ec!use these sign!ls control other
systems. This is %hy in order to underst!nd ho% electrochemistry %or$s in the (ody+ you
h!&e to underst!nd the structure o# the ner&ous system !nd the com"le, structure o# the
cell mem(r!ne.
The ner&ous system is !n org!n system th!t com"rises o# three systems in itsel#-
centr!l, "eri"her!l, !nd enteric .there is ! net%or$ o# ho% e!ch system inter!cts %ith
e!chother/, (ut there is more #ocus on the "eri"her!l ner&ous system (ec!use it cont!ins
the sensory neurons. There !re m!inly t%o ty"es o# cells in the ner&ous system- neurons
!nd gli!l cells. eurons !re ! com"lic!ted cell in itsel#, unli$e the sim"le !nim!l cell %ith
! mem(r!ne, nucleus !nd org!nelles. *t h!s (r!nches (eyond its cell (ody c!lled
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dendrites, !n !,on or t%o .coll!ter!l !,on/ !t !nother end o# the cell th!t conducts the
!ction "otenti!ls !%!y #rom the cell (ody to !nother &i! !,on termin!ls
The cell mem(r!ne controls %h!t goes in !nd out o# the cell. *t is #ormed #rom !
li"id (il!yer, %hich h!s !m"hi"!thic li"ids .one end is "ol!r !nd the other is non"ol!r/
The li"ids !re "rim!rily "hos"holi"ids. *on gr!dients "!ss through the mem(r!ne &i!
!cti&e tr!ns"ort or di##usion to !id in the synthesis o# ATP !nd the mo&ement o# selected
solutes, (ut the roles o# ions in neurons !re to send electric!l sign!ls
1ith ground $no%ledge o# neurons !nd cell mem(r!nes, %e get to the nitty2gritty
o# the electrochemistry in the (ody. Cell mem(r!ne "otenti!l is ! #und!ment!l "!rt o# !
neurotr!nsmission. Ch!nges in ion concentr!tions on either side o# the cell mem(r!ne
ch!nge the mem(r!ne "otenti!l. These ions !re "rim!rily 34, !4, C!24, !nd Cl2. To
c!lcul!te the mem(r!ne "otenti!l, %e h!&e to $no% the concentr!tions o# these ions !nd
%h!t their concentr!tion gr!dient .the concentr!tion (et%een t%o di##erent !re!s/ is.
1hen the cell is not t!$ing !ny sign!ls #rom other cells it is in resting !nd h!s ! resting
"otenti!l, %hich is is (et%een 250m6 to 270m6 (ec!use o# 348s high "erme!(ility
There is more 34 in the cell !nd more !4 out o# the cell, so it is #!&or!(le #or 34 to
#lo% out !nd !4 to #lo% in to est!(lish ! dyn!mic e:uili(rium, (ut the ion ch!nnels #or
these res"ecti&e ions !re closed, to $ee" concentr!tions %ithin st!(le conditions .resting
"otenti!l/. The neg!ti&e "otenti!l %hen rel!ting to thermodyn!mics me!ns !
nons"ont!neous "rocess. This nons"ont!neity is in rel!tion o# the #lo% o# 34 into the
cell, since there is ! lo%er concentr!tion o# 34 outside the mem(r!ne, it is un#!&or!(le to
h!&e 34 go into the cell.
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Molecul!r )iology 9
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Molecul!r )iology 9
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6ol.? )ioelectrochem, 9>29?
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1hen neurons need to communic!te %ith e!ch other, it needs to send !n electric
sign!l th!t tr!&els &i! !,ons. *t cre!tes !n !ction "otenti!l th!t tr!&els do%n the !,on
termin!ls. @uring the !ction "otenti!l, ion concentr!tions (egin to ch!nge !nd
su(se:uently the cell mem(r!ne "otenti!ls (egin to ch!nge. The !ction "otenti!l #orces
the !4 ion ch!nnels to o"en !nd due to n!tur!l di##usion, !4 #lo%s in .this is !long the
concentr!tion gr!dient/. This c!uses the mem(r!ne "otenti!l to ch!nge to 400m6 to
490m6. The cell needs to go (!c$ to ! neg!ti&e "otenti!l, so it !llo%s 34 to di##use out.
The !ction "otenti!l tr!&els do%n the !,on termin!ls. At the end o# e!ch termin!l is !
syn!"se %hich is the Aunction (et%een t%o neurons. o% this is %here C!24 !nd Cl2
come in. The !ction "otenti!ls c!use C!24 ion ch!nnels to o"en !nd !llo% C!24 to #lo%
into the syn!"tic $no( .the end o# the !,on termin!l/ %hich c!uses the rele!se o#
neurotr!nsmitters. Bece"tors on the end o# the other neuronCs !,on termin!ls recei&e
these tr!nsmitters %hich !re chemic!l messengers. There !re t%o ty"es o# syn!"se- ones
th!t e,cite the neuron !nd ones th!t inhi(it it
. E,cit!tory syn!"ses c!use 34 !nd !4
ch!nnels to o"en !nd !llo% the #!&or!(le #lo% o# ions into the other neuron, m!$ing the
mem(r!ne "otenti!l more neg!ti&e !nd e,citing the neuron into (ring it (!c$ to resting
"otenti!l, c!lled de"ol!ri'!tion. *nhi(itory syn!"ses, unli$e e,cit!tory syn!"ses, h!&e
"ositi&e ions le!&e the cell !nd neg!ti&e ions #lo% into the cell- 34 out !nd Cl2 in. This
m!$es it h!rder #or the cell to (ring its "otenti!l (!c$ to threshold. otice ho% in !ll o#
these "rocesses #or ! neuron to communic!te %ith !nother &i! electric sign!ls, ion
concentr!tions !re cruci!l- the cell utili'es the need #or these ions to est!(lish e:uili(rium
%ithin the cell !nd outside the mem(r!ne. The mem(r!ne "otenti!ls !lso tell i# the
mo&ement in one direction is #!&or!(le or not (ec!use &olt!ges !re rel!ted to s"ont!neity.
Hum!n Physiology 0
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Dsing the ernst E:u!tion, %e c!n #ind the e:uili(rium "otenti!ls o# res"ecti&e
ions gi&en their concentr!tions, %hich !re !""ro,im!ted. *nside cell- E34F G 190 mM,
E!4F G 1= mM, ECl2F G 10 mM+ Outside cell- E34F G = mM, E!4F G 1=0 mM, ECl2F G
120 mM
. Hor e,!m"le, the c!lcul!tion o# E.e:/3 !t 010 3 .(ody tem"./ is
."lugging in the concentr!tions %ould yield 2?0 m6/
Icientists h!&e #ound th!t "otenti!ls o# the cell during ! tr!nsmission to (e !t
!""ro,im!te !t di##erent st!ges, li$e 200 to 290 m6 or 450 to 470m6, (ut ho% do %e
c!lcul!te e,!ct "otenti!ls gi&en the ion concentr!tions !nd the "erme!(ility o# these ionsJ
This c!n (e done (y ! signi#ic!nt e:u!tion c!lled the Koldm!n E:u!tion, %hich t!$es into
!ccount (oth o# these to "ro&ide ! more "recise &olt!ge.
.*on concentr!tions, n!tur!l log, H!r!d!y const!nt, const!nt B, !nd "erme!(ility to
c!lcul!te "otenti!l/
Through this e:u!tion, scientists c!n c!lcul!te !nd !n!ly'e e,!ct ch!nges during !n
!ction "otenti!l or neurotr!nsmission.
Also notice ho% conducti&e .or not conducti&e/ the mem(r!ne !nd the (r!nches
o# the neurons !re. Currents c!n le!$ through m!ny things, including dendrites or
mem(r!nes. There is !lso resist!nce in mem(r!nes. To !ccount #or these, there is !lso !n
e:u!tion th!t c!n (e used, c!lled the C!(le E:u!tion.
)iology >
, 10=0
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.6 is &olt!ge, r is resist!nce !nd c is c!"!cit!nce E!(ility to store electric!l ch!rgeF/
1e c!n underst!nd no% ho% !n electric sign!l is #!cilit!ted in neurons, ho% ions
"l!y ! role in this "rocess, !nd ho% %e c!n c!lcul!te di##erent &!lues #or !s"ects o# the
neuron during the "rocess, li$e its cell "otenti!l or current le!$!ge.
C!m"(ell, eil. )iology >
edition . I!n Hr!ncisco- Pe!rson. 200>
Iher%ood, L!ur!. Hum!n Physiology- Hrom Cells to Iystems 0
edition . )elmont-
1ords%orth. 1??7
Al(erts, )ruce. Molecul!r )iology o# the Cell 9
edition . e% Mor$- K!rl!nd Icience.
H!ll, Bich!rd. ;The euron<. Boll!, MO- MIT. 1??>
1ilson, Keorge. Encyclo"edi! o# Electrochemistry, 2002. 6olume ?.
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