High electric field strengths may induce high cell membrane potentials. At a certain breakdown level the membrane potential becomes constant due to the transition from an insulating state into a high conductivity and high permeability state. Pores are thought to be created through which molecules may be transported into and out of the cell interior. Membrane rupture may follow due to the expansion of pores or the creation of many small pores across a certain part of the membrane surface. In nonuniform electric fields, it is difficult to predict the electroporated membrane area. Therefore, in this study the induced membrane potential and the membrane area where this potential exceeds the breakdown level is investigated by finite-element modeling. Results from experiments in which the collapse of neuronal cells was detected were combined with the computed field strengths in order to investigate membrane breakdown and membrane rupture. It was found that in nonuniform fields membrane rupture is position dependent, especially at higher breakdown levels. This indicates that the size of the membrane site that is affected by electroporation determines rupture.
Heida, T., Wagenaar, J. B. M., Rutten, W., & Marani, E. (2002). Investigation membrane breakdown of neuronal cells exposed to nonuniform electric fields by finite-element modeling and experiments. IEEE transactions on biomedical engineering, 49(10), 1195-1203. https://doi.org/10.1109/TBME.2002.803503