Action potentials in macrophages derived from human monocytes

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  25 Feb 1983:
Vol. 219, Issue 4587, pp. 991-993
DOI: 10.1126/science.6823563


The electrical activity of macrophages derived from human blood monocytes was recorded in vitro with intracellular microelectrodes and was analyzed with computer-assisted data acquisition and analysis techniques. In cells impaled 6 to 8 days after the cultures were prepared, the resting potentials reached a maximum value of -72 millivolts. The cells were electrically excitable; spikes exhibited a slow upstroke, a fast downstroke, a discrete threshold, a large overshoot, and a brief undershoot. Repetitive firing was induced by a maintained depolarizing current. A positive relation was observed between transmembrane currents and resting potential. Voltage-current relations were nonrectifying for subthreshold current injections. Since these cells had not been treated with any specific activation factors, the electrical activity recorded is evidence for the presence of voltage-dependent inward and outward currents in the membranes of mature macrophages. The electrical signals generated by these cells may be useful for the assay of sensor and effector functions of macrophages, such as chemotaxis, receptor-ligand interactions, and phagocytosis.