Active transport is the movement of molecules across its concentration gradient by consuming energy.
Primary active transport involves direct transport of a substance by utilizing ATP, while secondary active transport consumes energy from a source other than ATP. This involves energy stored in the form of an electrochemical gradient created by pumping ions out of the cell.
The electrochemical gradient is created because of the movement of driving ions down the ionic gradient. This movement, in return, drives the uphill movement of another ion/molecule across its concentration gradient. Hence secondary transport is also referred to as ion-coupled transport.
Secondary active transport is mainly characterized by the transport of two molecules.
Here both driving (ion) and driven species (molecule to be transported) are bound to the same transporter for translocation across the membrane.
The driving ions are usually translocated through primary active transporters or pumps.
Example sodium and potassium transporters. Since these primary pumps are involved in transporting the driving species, the mechanism is termed as secondary active transport.
In most of the cells, sodium ion serves as a driving ion for many secondary active transporters located in the plasma membrane. The reason being, since extracellular Na
concentration is 145mM and intracellular concentration is around 15mM, there is more ionic, or concentration gradient outside the cell, and hence the excess is trying to diffuse into the cell.
Therefore the free energy stored in form of the ionic gradient is used by most of the sodium-coupled transporters to drive the uphill movement of molecules.
The transport proteins responsible for secondary active transport are known as secondary active transporters.
Two types of secondary active transport exist based on the direction of movement of molecules across the biological membrane; symport and antiport transporters.
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