The surfaces of most cells bear a net negative charge. The imposition of an electric field parallel to the surface of the cell should produce, therefore, an electro-osmotic flow of fluid towards the cathodal side of the cell. Our analysis of a simple model of the cell surface indicates that a negatively charged mobile macromolecule will be swept by this electro-osmotic flow of fluid to the cathodal side of the cell if its zeta potential, zeta 1, is less negative than the zeta potential of the cell surface, zeta 2. Conversely, if zeta 2 is less negative than zeta 1, the negatively charged macromolecule will accumulate at the anodal side of the cell. Our experimental results demonstrate that concanavalin A (Con A) receptors on embryonic muscle cells normally accumulate at the cathodal side of the cell, but that they can be induced to accumulate at the anodal side of the cell by preincubating the myotubes either with neuraminidase, a treatment that removes negatively charged sialic acid residues, or with the lipid diI, a treatment that adds positive charges to the surface of the cell. Addition of the negatively charged lipid monosialoganglioside (GM1), on the other hand, enhances the accumulation of Con A receptors at the cathodal side of the cell. © 1981, The Biophysical Society. All rights reserved.
McLaughlin, S., & Poo, M. M. (1981). The role of electro-osmosis in the electric-field-induced movement of charged macromolecules on the surfaces of cells. Biophysical Journal, 34(1), 85–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(81)84838-2