The electrical resistance of Nitella cells to direct current is determined in a Wheatstone bridge, using a vacuum-tube detector, and string galvanometer. Very small currents are passed through the cells, to avoid stimulation. The galvanometer record shows typical transient effects in the living cells at opening and closing of the circuit, due to the development of back E.M.F.
With 1 cm. contacts of tap water, and 1 cm. between contacts the resistances of living cells are usually between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 ohms. They go as high as 3,500,000 ohms when the cells are in the best condition. The resistance falls to about 50,000 ohms immediately after killing.
Leakage around the cell is small because the wall is imbibed with tap water. By measuring the resistance of the isolated wall (air-filled), and by varying the areas of contact with intact cells, the effective protoplasmic resistance is calculated. This varies from 100,000 to 700,000 ohms per square centimeter of surface, with a typical value of about 250,000 ohms per square centimeter.
This high resistance represents a low permeability for most ions, since the values are nearly as high with contacts of 0.01 M NaCl, CaCl2, LiCl, NH4Cl, and MgSO4. The resistances are greatly reduced however by solutions of KCl, which is correlated with a high mobility of the K+ ion in the protoplasm.
Electrical stimulation causes a marked reduction of resistance, which may be due to exomosis of KCl.