Criteria in Carrier Transport

  • W. Wilbrandt
Part of the Biomembranes book series (B, volume 7)


Transport of matter across biological membranes is interpreted at present mainly on three principles of membrane passage: diffusion, carrier-mediated transport, and active transport. What is meant by these terms ? Since biological membranes are complex molecular structures involving tight packing of molecules, it is obvious that processes identical with or closely approaching diffusion in free, diluted solution are unthinkable. The term “diffusion” in relation to membrane passage, therefore, should be defined. What is meant is movement of molecules under the exclusive influence of thermal molecular motion as driving force. In carrier-mediated transport an additional process assumed to be involved is the reaction of the penetrating molecules or ions with mobile components of the membrane (carriers) to form a transport complex which, in contradistinction to the free particles themselves, is capable of crossing the membrane in some way. This ability might be due to higher lipoid solubility of the complex compared to the free transport substrate or to configurational changes in proteins. Finally, “active transport” is characterized, according to the most widely accepted definition (Rosenberg, 1948; Wilbrandt, 1974), by the ability of operating against gradients of chemical activity or, in the case of ions, electrochemical activity (“uphill”). This requires the coupling to energy-yielding processes, for instance, chemical reactions. Additional involvement of carrier substrate reactions is frequently assumed. It is, however, not a logical consequence of the definition.


Active Transport Carrier Transport Flux Ratio Saturation Kinetic Loaded Carrier 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Wilbrandt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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