The Size of Sonoporation Pores on the Cell Membrane

Yun Zhou, Ronald E. Kumon, Jianmin Cui, Cheri X. Deng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Sonoporation uses ultrasound (US) to generate transient nonselective pores on the cell membrane and has been exploited as a nonviral intracellular drug and gene delivery strategy. The pore size determines the size of agents that can be delivered into the cytoplasm using the technique. However, measurements of the dynamic, submicron-scale pores have not been readily available. Electron microscopy or atomic force microscopy has been used to gauge pore size but such techniques are intrinsically limited to post-US measurements that may not accurately reveal the relevant information. As previously demonstrated, changes of the transmembrane current (TMC) of a single cell under voltage clamp can be used for monitoring sonoporation in real-time. Because the TMC is related to the diffusion of ions through the pores on the membrane, it can potentially provide information of the pore size generated in sonoporation. Using Xenopus laevis oocytes as the model system, the TMC of single cells under voltage clamp was measured in real-time to assess formation of pores on the membrane in sonoporation. The cells were exposed to US (0.2 s, 0.3 MPa, 1.075 MHz) in the presence of Definity™ microbubbles. Experiments were designed to obtain the TMC corresponding to a single pore on the membrane. The size of the pores was estimated from an electro-diffusion model that relates the TMC with pore size from the ion transport through the pores on the membrane. The mean radius of single pores was determined to be 110 nm with standard deviation of 40 nm. This study reports the first results of pore size from the TMC measured using the voltage clamp technique. (E-mail:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1756-1760
Number of pages5
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


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