The normal P.D. across the protoplasm of Valonia macrophysa is about 10 mv. negative (inwardly directed). On adding 0.01 M guaiacol to the sea water the P.D. becomes positive and then slowly returns approximately to the normal value.
In many cases this behavior is not much affected by raising the pH and so increasing the concentration of the guaiacol ion but in other cases such an increase makes the P.D. somewhat more negative.
But if we wait until the exposure to guaiacol has lasted 5 minutes (and the P.D. has returned to its normal value) before we raise the pH, the result is very different. The cell then behaves as though it had been sensitized to the action of the guaiacol ion which appears to be far more effective than undissociated guaiacol in making the P.D. more positive. This may be due in part to the high apparent mobility of the guaiacol ion and in part to alterations which it produces in the protoplasm (such alterations increase the P.D. across the protoplasm whereas ordinary injury would be expected to lower it and the cells live on after this treatment and show no signs of injury).
This action of the guaiacol ion is in marked contrast to the behavior of other anions whose effect resembles that of Cl-.