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Free from the Archives - Artificial transmembrane channels for sodium and potassium

Posted on 5. June, 2014.

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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.

DOI:10.3184/003685002783238780

Read the full article, free of charge, in Science Progress, Volume 85, Number 3, August 2002, pp. 219-241

About the Author: Dr Peter Cragg obtained his BSc from the University of Nottingham and PhD from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), USA. Following postdoctoral research at SUNY (Stony Brook), USA and the University of Reading, he joined the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton, UK in 1993 where he is at present, Reader in Supramolecular and Bioinorganic Chemistry. In 1996 he was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.

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