Moving Questions

A History of Membrane Transport and Bioenergetics

  • Joseph D. Robinson

Part of the People and Ideas Series book series (PEOPL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-1
  2. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 3-12
  3. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 13-25
  4. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 68-88
  5. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 89-97
  6. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 98-102
  7. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 103-125
  8. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 126-146
  9. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 147-155
  10. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 156-182
  11. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 183-204
  12. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 205-219
  13. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 238-246
  14. Joseph D. Robinson
    Pages 300-311
  15. Back Matter
    Pages 312-373

About this book


This book describes half a century of progress in two mainstream areas of biological research: membrane transport, initially a focus of physiologists, and oxidative phosphorylation, initially a focus of biochemists. Robinson shows how the development of new explanatory models had unexpectedly merged these inquiries into a new field, bioenergetics. In the late 1930s, explanations for the asymmetric distribution of ions between cells and their environments invoked absolute impermeabilities of the cell's surrounding membranes. But new experiments contradicted that idea and demonstrated that forming the transmembrane distributions required metabolic energy, implying the participation of active transport "pumps." Subsequent studies identified, isolated, and characterized these pumps as enzymes coupling ionic transport to the consumption of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an "energy-rich" molecule serving as a cellular energy store. In the late 1930s oxidative phosphylation, the process of coupling ATP synthesis to oxidative metabolism, was identified. The explanatory model emerging in the next decades, however, did not follow the enzymatic precedents of known metabolic phosphorylations but rather embodied the principle that metabolic oxidations drive active transport pumps to create transmembrane distribution of ions, with these ionic asymmetries then driving ATP synthesis. It was discovered that ATP consumption can form ionic asymmetries; ionic asymmetries can drive ATP formation; and ionic asymmetries-like ATP-can also power other cellular functions.


enzyme membrane membrane transport metabolism oxidative metabolism physiology skin tissue

Authors and affiliations

  • Joseph D. Robinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyState University of New York Health Science CenterSyracuseUSA

Bibliographic information