Ling’s adsorption theory as a mechanism of membrane potential generation observed in both living and nonliving systems

Hirohisa Tamagawa, Makoto Funatani, Kota Ikeda

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The potential between two electrolytic solutions separated by a membrane impermeable to ions was measured and the generation mechanism of potential measured was investigated. From the physiological point of view, a nonzero membrane potential or action potential cannot be observed across the impermeable membrane. However, a nonzero membrane potential including action potential-like potential was clearly observed. Those observations gave rise to a doubt concerning the validity of currently accepted generation mechanism of membrane potential and action potential of cell. As an alternative theory, we found that the long-forgotten Ling’s adsorption theory was the most plausible theory. Ling’s adsorption theory suggests that the membrane potential and action potential of a living cell is due to the adsorption of mobile ions onto the adsorption site of cell, and this theory is applicable even to nonliving (or non-biological) system as well as living system. Through this paper, the authors emphasize that it is necessary to reconsider the validity of current membrane theory and also would like to urge the readers to pay keen attention to the Ling’s adsorption theory which has for long years been forgotten in the history of physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2016



  • Action potential
  • Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz
  • Ion adsorption
  • Ion permeation
  • Ling’s adsorption theory
  • Membrane potential

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