Incremental changes in ionic composition, solvent quality, and temperature can lead to reversible and abrupt structural changes in many synthetic and biopolymer systems. In the biological milieu, this nonlinear response is believed to play an important functional role in various biological systems, including DNA condensation, cell secretion, water flow in xylem of plants, cell resting potential, and formation of membraneless organelles. While these systems are markedly different from one another, a physicochemical framework that treats them as polyelectrolytes, provides a means to interpret experimental results and make in silico predictions. This article summarizes experimental results made on ion-induced volume phase transition in a polyelectrolyte model gel (sodium polyacrylate) and observations on the above-mentioned biological systems indicating the existence of a steep response.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH.
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- abrupt depolarization
- cell secretion
- membraneless organelles
- polyelectrolyte gel
- volume phase transition
- xylem flow