Europhys. Lett.
Volume 63, Number 4, August 2003
Page(s) 610 - 615
Section Interdisciplinary physics and related areas of science and technology
Published online 01 November 2003
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2003-00559-8
Europhys. Lett., 63 (4) , pp. 610-615 (2003)

Specific ion effects: The role of co-ions in biology

M. Boström1, D. R. M. Williams2 and B. W. Ninham2

1  Department of Physics and Measurement Technology, Linköping University SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden
2  Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physical Sciences The Australian National University - Canberra, Australia 0200

(Received 7 March 2003; accepted in final form 13 June 2003)

Co-ions are as essential in biological systems as they are ignored. The purpose of this letter is to demonstrate the importance of including ionic dispersion potentials acting between ions and interfaces in any realistic theoretical modeling of biological systems. We demonstrate through a well-known biological example that co-ion effects can be understood once these previously ignored forces are included. Experiments have in the past revealed that addition of salt solutions with different co-ions give fundamentally different results for the formation of meta 2 rhodopsin (which is involved in dim light vision). For systems with low salt concentrations, addition of salt favors the formation of meta 1 rhodopsin. Exactly the opposite is observed in high-concentration salt solutions. This is true even after surface pH effects have been screened out with the addition of 0.5 $\un{M}$ sodium acetate buffer. A theoretical explanation for the role of co-ions behind this effect is here given in terms of ionic dispersion potentials and ion specific surface pH.

82.45.Gj - Electrolytes.
73.30.+y - Surface double layers, Schottky barriers, and work functions.
82.45.Mp - Thin layers, films, monolayers, membranes.

© EDP Sciences 2003