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Proton Motive Force

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Chemiosmotic potential; Electrochemical potential


ATP synthase, LUCA, proton gradient, Sodium motive force


Proton motive force (PMF) is the force that promotes movement of protons across membranes downhill the electrochemical potential.


A difference of solute concentration between two compartments separated by a biological membrane generates a tendency to equilibrium, which, in the case of protons, is called proton motive force (PMF). This is measured in terms of the potential energy resulting from the difference in concentration between the two compartments. With a charged solute, the potential has two components: the chemical (concentration) and the electrical potentials, (Fig. 1) thus, it is named electrochemical potential.

Proton Motive Force. Figure 1
figure 1643

Proton gradients and proton motive force

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References and Further Reading

  • Baker-Austin C, Dopson M (2007) Life in acid: pH homeostasis in acidophiles. Trends Microbiol 15:165–171

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  • Daniel H, Spanier B, Kottra G, Weitz D (2006) From bacteria to man: archaic proton-dependent peptide transporters at work. Physiology (Bethesda) 21:93–102

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  • Harris DA (1995) Bioenergetics at a glance: an illustrated introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford

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  • Lane N, Allen JF, Martin W (2010) How did LUCA make a living? Chemiosmosis in the origin of life. BioEssays. doi: 10.1002/bies.200900131

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  • Nicholls DG, Ferguson SJ (2002) Bioenergetics 3. Academic, London

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  • Papa S, Lorusso M, Di Paola M (2006) Cooperativity and flexibility of the protonmotive activity of mitochondrial respiratory chain. Biochim Biophys Acta 1757:428–436

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Correspondence to José Pascual Abad .

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© 2011 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

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Abad, J.P. (2011). Proton Motive Force. In: Gargaud, M., et al. Encyclopedia of Astrobiology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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