Dielectric Self-Energy in Poisson-Boltzmann and Poisson-Nernst-Planck Models of Ion Channels

Ben Corry, S. Kuyucak, S. Chung

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91 Citations (Scopus)


We demonstrated previously that the two continuum theories widely used in modeling biological ion channels give unreliable results when the radius of the conduit is less than two Debye lengths. The reason for this failure is the neglect of surface charges on the protein wall induced by permeating ions. Here we attempt to improve the accuracy of the Poisson-Boltzmann and Poisson-Nemst-Planck theories, when applied to channel-like environments, by including a specific dielectric self-energy term to overcome spurious shielding effects inherent in these theories. By comparing results with Brownian dynamics simulations, we show that the inclusion of an additional term in the equations yields significant qualitative improvements. The modified theories perform well in very wide and very narrow channels, but are less successful at intermediate sizes. The situation is worse in multi-ion channels because of the inability of the continuum theories to handle the ion-to-ion interactions correctly. Thus, further work is required if these continuum theories are to be reliably salvaged for quantitative studies of biological ion channels in all situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3594-3606
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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