Membrane hydraulic permeability changes during cooling of mammalian cells.
ABSTRACT In order to predict optimal cooling rates for cryopreservation of cells, the cell-specific membrane hydraulic permeability and corresponding activation energy for water transport need to be experimentally determined. These parameters should preferably be determined at subzero temperatures in the presence of ice. There is, however, a lack of methods to study membrane properties of cells in the presence of ice. We have used Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to study freezing-induced membrane dehydration of mouse embryonic fibroblast (3T3) cells and derived the subzero membrane hydraulic permeability and the activation energy for water transport from these data. Coulter counter measurements were used to determine the suprazero membrane hydraulic permeability parameters from cellular volume changes of cells exposed to osmotic stress. The activation energy for water transport in the ice phase is about three fold greater compared to that at suprazero temperatures. The membrane hydraulic permeability at 0 °C that was extrapolated from suprazero measurements is about five fold greater compared to that extrapolated from subzero measurements. This difference is likely due to a freezing-induced dehydration of the bound water around the phospholipid head groups. Using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, two distinct water transport processes, that of free and membrane bound water, can be identified during freezing with distinct activation energies. Dimethylsulfoxide, a widely used cryoprotective agent, did not prevent freezing-induced membrane dehydration but decreased the activation energy for water transport.