A model is described which throws light on the mechanism of accumulation. In the model used an external aqueous phase A is separated by a non-aqueous phase B (representing the protoplasm) from the artificial sap in C. A contains KOH and C contains HCl: they tend to mix by passing through the non-aqueous layer but much more KOH moves so that most of the KCl is formed in C, where the concentration of potassium becomes much greater than in A. This accumulation is only temporary for as the system approaches equilibrium the composition of A approaches identity with that of C, since all the substances present can pass through the non-aqueous layer. Such an approach to equilibrium may be compared to the death of the cell as the result of which accumulation disappears.
During the earlier stages of the experiment potassium tends to go in as KOH and at the same time to go out as KCl. These opposing tendencies do not balance until the concentration of potassium inside becomes much greater than outside (hence potassium accumulates). The reason is that KCl, although its driving force be great, moves very slowly in B because its partition coefficient is low and in consequence its concentration gradient in B is small. This illustrates the importance of partition coefficients for penetration in models and in living cells. It also indicates that accumulation depends on the fact that permeability is greater for the ingoing compound of the accumulating substance than for the outgoing compound.
Other things being equal, accumulation is increased by maintaining a low pH in C. Hence we may infer that anything which checks the production of acid in the living cell may be expected to check accumulation and growth.
This model recalls the situation in Valonia and in most living cells where potassium accumulates as KCl, perhaps because it enters as KOH and forms KA in the sap (where A is an organic anion). In some plants potassium accumulates as KA but when HCl exists in the external solution it will tend to enter and displace the weaker acid HA (if this be carbonic it can readily escape): hence potassium may accumulate to a greater or less extent as KCl.
Injury of the cell may produce a twofold effect, (1) increase of permeability, (2) lessened accumulation. The total amount of electrolyte taken up in a given time will be influenced by these factors and may be greater than normal in the injured cell or less, depending somewhat on the length of the interval of time chosen.