Affordable Access

Electric field modulation of ERK dynamics shows dependency on waveform and timing

  • Hu, Minxi
  • Li, Houpu
  • Zhu, Kan
  • Guo, Liang
  • Zhao, Min
  • Zhan, Huiwang
  • Devreotes, Peter N
  • Qing, Quan
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
External links


Different exogenous electric fields (EF) can guide cell migration, disrupt proliferation, and program cell development. Studies have shown that many of these processes were initiated at the cell membrane, but the mechanism has been unclear, especially for conventionally non-excitable cells. In this study, we focus on the electrostatic aspects of EF coupling with the cell membrane by eliminating Faradaic processes using dielectric-coated microelectrodes. Our data unveil a distinctive biphasic response of the ERK signaling pathway of epithelial cells (MCF10A) to alternate current (AC) EF. The ERK signal exhibits both inhibition and activation phases, with the former triggered by a lower threshold of AC EF, featuring a swifter peaking time and briefer refractory periods than the later-occurring activation phase, induced at a higher threshold. Interestingly, the biphasic ERK responses are sensitive to the waveform and timing of EF stimulation pulses, depicting the characteristics of electrostatic and dissipative interactions. Blocker tests and correlated changes of active Ras on the cell membrane with ERK signals indicated that both EGFR and Ras were involved in the rich ERK dynamics induced by EF. We propose that the frequency-dependent dielectric relaxation process could be an important mechanism to couple EF energy to the cell membrane region and modulate membrane protein-initiated signaling pathways, which can be further explored to precisely control cell behavior and fate with high temporal and spatial resolution.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times