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Free Content Artificial transmembrane channels for sodium and potassium

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Transport of alkali metals, particularly sodium and potassium, across cell membranes is an essential function performed by special proteins that enable cells to regulate inter- and extracellular ion concentrations with exceptional selectivity. The importance of these channel-forming proteins has led to researchers emulating of their structural features: an ion-specific filter and conduction at rates up to 108 ions per second. Synthetic helical and cyclic polypeptides form channels, however, the specificity of ion transport is often low. Ion-specific macrocycles have been used as filters from which membrane-spanning derivatives have been prepared. Success has been limited as many compounds act as ion carriers rather than forming transmembrane channels. Surfactant compounds also allow ions to cross membranes but any specificity is serendipitous. Overall it seems possible to mimic either ion specificity or efficient transmembrane ion transport. The goal for the future will be to combine both characteristics in one artificial system.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Science Review, PO Box 314, St. Albans, Herts AL1 4ZG, UK

Publication date: 2002-08-15

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