The sodium pump in the evolution of animal cells

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
W D Stein

Abstract

Plant cells and bacterial cells are surrounded by a massive cellulose wall, which constrains their high internal osmotic pressure (tens of atmospheres). Animal cells, in contrast, are in osmotic equilibrium with their environment, have no restraining surround, can take on a variety of shapes and change these from moment to moment. This osmotic balance is achieved by the action of the energy-consuming sodium pump, one of the P-type ATPase transport protein family, members of which are indeed also found in bacteria. The pump's action brings about a transmembranal electrochemical gradient of sodium ions, harnessed in a range of transport systems that couple the dissipation of this gradient to establishing a gradient of the coupled substrate. The primary role of the sodium pump as a regulator of cell volume has evolved to provide the basis for an enormous variety of physiological functions.

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