Ultrathin (black) lipid membranes were made from sheep red cell lipids dissolved in n-decane. The presence of aliphatic alcohols in the aqueous solutions bathing these membranes produced reversible changes in the ionic permeability, but not the osomotic permeability. Heptanol (8 mM), for example, caused the membrane resistance (Rm) to decrease from >108 to about 105 ohm-cm2 and caused a marked increase in the permeability to cations, especially potassium. In terms of ionic transference numbers, deduced from measurements of the membrane potential at zero current, Tcat/TCl increased from about 6 to 21 and TK/TNa increased from about 3 to 21. The addition of long-chain (C8ndash;C10) alcohols to the lipid solutions from which membranes were made produced similar effects on the ionic permeability. A plot of log Rm vs. log alcohol concentration was linear over the range of maximum change in Rm, and the slope was -3 to -5 for C2 through C7 alcohols, suggesting that a complex of several alcohol molecules is responsible for the increase in ionic permeability. Membrane permselectivity changed from cationic to anionic when thorium or ferric iron (10-4 M) was present in the aqueous phase or when a secondary amine (Amberlite LA-2) was added to the lipid solutions from which membranes were made. When membranes containing the secondary amine were exposed to heptanol, Rm became very low (103–104 ohm-cm2) and the membranes became perfectly anion-selective, developing chloride diffusion potentials up to 150 mv.

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