If it is oscillatory, the ECC model would be applicable for understanding the function of many membrane enzymes and receptors. If it is stationary, one would expect that such a potential be modulated by certain mechanisms before it can play a role in the cellular energy and signal transductions. Several methods of modulation may be conceived: (1) opening/closing of a channel protein, as in F(o)F(1)ATPase and the generation and propogation of an action potential, (2) altering the charge density of a protein, as in phosphorylation /dephosphorylation, (3) a redox reaction that transports electrons through a specified path, as in the electron transport chain, (4) binding/dissociation of ions or charged ligands, etc.
These ideas have been discussed previously. Most cellular events mediated by membrane receptors or enzymes basically have the character of a Michaelis- Menten enzyme, as depicted in scheme 5 of Fig. 1. Such a system is able to receive, decipher
and respond to a periodic perturbation, i.e. an energy source or a signal, insofar as the receptor or enzyme is capable of interacting effectively with that periodic driving force. A reverse reaction will, in turn, allow the receptor or the enzyme to transmit energy or a signal. If the concept discussed here is near the truth, most useful information of the transmembrane electric activity of a cell is not contained in the measured stationary potential but rather in the local and time dependent fluctuations of the electric field.
Very weak electric fields (mV/cm) of various frequencies have been shown to trigger gene expression, stimulate RNA and protein biosynthesis, and influence cell differentiation, proliferation, bone healing, etc. (see e.g. refs. 35- 37). These phenomena may be understood using the concept of the ECC model, as well. Our task is then to identify cellular components that respond to these weak electric fields. In our previous work, we have examined how a very weak periodic field is amplified at the cite of the cell membrane [11,12,38,39]. With such mechanisms, organisms can communicate and navigate with extremely weak oscillatory electric, magnetic, acoustic or chemical potentials.
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