Lipids were obtained from high potassium (HK) and low potassium (LK) sheep red cells by sequential extraction of the erythrocytes with isopropanol-chloroform, chloroform-methanol-0.1 M KCl, and chloroform. The extract contained cholesterol and phospholipid in a molar ratio of 0.8:1.0, and less than 1% protein contaminant. Stable thin lipid membranes separating two aqueous compartments were formed from an erythrocyte lipid-hydrocarbon solution, and had an electrical resistance of ∼108 ohm-cm2 and a capacitance of 0.38–0.4 µf/cm2. From the capacitance values, membrane thickness was estimated to be 46–132 A, depending on the assumed value for the dielectric constant (2.0–4.5). Membrane voltage was recorded in the presence of ionic (NaCl and/or KCl) concentration gradients in the solutions bathing the membrane. The permeability of the membrane to Na+, K+, and Cl- (expressed as the transference number, Tion) was computed from the steady-state membrane voltage and the activity ratio of the ions in the compartments bathing the membrane. TNa and TK were approximately equal (∼0.8) and considerably greater than TCl (∼0.2). The ionic transference numbers were independent of temperature, the hydrocarbon solvent, the osmolarity of the solutions bathing the membranes, and the cholesterol content of the membranes, over the range 21–38°C. The high degree of membrane cation selectivity was tentatively attributed to the negatively charged phospholipids (phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine) present in the lipid extract.

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