Different Permeability of Potassium Salts across the Blood-Brain Barrier Follows the Hofmeister Series

Gian Luca Breschi, Massimo Cametti, Alfonso Mastropietro, Laura Librizzi, Giuseppe Baselli, Giuseppe Resnati, Pierangelo Metrangolo, Marco de Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The passage of ions across biological membranes is regulated by passive and active mechanisms. Passive ion diffusion into organs depends on the ion-pairing properties of salts present in the serum. Potassium ions could affect brain activity by crossing the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and its accumulation in the extracellular cerebral space could precipitate seizures. In the present study, we analyze passive diffusion of a series of potassium salts in the in vitro isolated guinea pig brain preparation. Different potassium counter-anions confer ion-pairing and lipophilicity properties that modulate membrane diffusion of the salt. Extracellular recordings in different cortical areas demonstrated the presence of epileptiform activities that strongly relate to anion identity, following the qualitative order of the Hofmeister series. Indeed, highly lipophilic salts that easily cross the BBB enhanced extracellular potassium concentration measured by ion-selective electrodes and were the most effective pro-epileptic species. This study constitutes a novel contribution for the understanding of the potential epileptogenicity of potassium salts and, more generally, of the role of counter-anions in the passive passage of salts through biological membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere78553
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 28 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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