Transport of sodium and potassium ions through protein channels. Also shown are conformational changes in the protein molecules to open or close "gates" guarding the channels.
molecules that hydrate them. The hydrated form of the potassium ion is considerably smaller than the hydrated form of sodium because the sodium ion attracts far more water molecules than does potassium. Therefore, the smaller hydrated potassium ions can pass easily through this small channel, whereas the larger hydrated sodium ions are rejected, thus providing selective permeability for a specific ion.
Gating of Protein Channels. Gating of protein channels provides a means of controlling ion permeability of the channels. This is shown in both panels of Figure 4-4 for selective gating of sodium and potassium ions. It is believed that some of the gates are actual gatelike extensions of the transport protein molecule, which can close the opening of the channel or can be lifted away from the opening by a conformational change in the shape of the protein molecule itself.
The opening and closing of gates are controlled in two principal ways:
1. Voltage gating. In this instance, the molecular conformation of the gate or of its chemical bonds responds to the electrical potential across the cell membrane. For instance, in the top panel of Figure 4-4, when there is a strong negative charge on the inside of the cell membrane, this presumably could cause the outside sodium gates to remain tightly closed; conversely, when the inside of the membrane loses its negative charge, these gates would open suddenly and allow tremendous quantities of sodium to pass inward through the sodium pores. This is the basic mechanism for eliciting action potentials in nerves that are responsible for nerve signals. In the bottom panel of Figure 4-4, the potassium gates are on the intracellular ends of the potassium channels, and they open when the inside of the cell membrane becomes positively charged. The opening of these gates is partly responsible for terminating the action potential, as is discussed more fully in Chapter 5.
2. Chemical (ligand) gating. Some protein channel gates are opened by the binding of a chemical substance (a ligand) with the protein; this causes a conformational or chemical bonding change in the protein molecule that opens or closes the gate. This is called chemical gating or ligand gating. One of the most important instances of chemical gating is the effect of acetylcholine on the so-called acetylcholine channel. Acetylcholine opens the gate of this channel, providing a negatively charged pore about 0.65 nanometer in diameter that allows uncharged molecules or positive ions smaller than this diameter to pass through. This gate is exceedingly important for the transmission of nerve signals from one nerve cell to another (see Chapter 45) and from nerve cells to muscle cells to cause muscle contraction (see Chapter 7).
Figure 4-5A shows an especially interesting characteristic of most voltage-gated channels. This figure shows two recordings of electrical current flowing through a single sodium channel when there was an approximate 25-millivolt potential gradient across the
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.