Ion-induced volume transition in gels and its role in biology

Matan Mussel, Peter J. Basser, Ferenc Horkay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • DNA
  • abrupt depolarization
  • biopolymers
  • cell secretion
  • membraneless organelles
  • polyelectrolyte gel
  • volume phase transition
  • xylem flow


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