Recent experiments show that membrane ATPases are capable of absorbing free energy from an applied oscillating electric field and converting it to chemical bond energy of ATP or chemical potential energy of concentration gradients. Presumably these enzymes would also respond to endogenous transmembrane electric fields of similar intensity and waveform. A mechanism is proposed in which energy coupling is achieved via Coulombic interaction of an electric field and the conformational equilibria of an ATPase. Analysis indicates that only an oscillating or fluctuating electric field can be used by an enzyme to drive a chemical reaction away from equilibrium. In vivo, the stationary transmembrane potential of a cell must be modulated to become “locally” oscillatory if it is to derive energy and signal transduction processes.

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