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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Membrane Physiology, Nerve, and Muscle : Transport of Substances Through the Cell Membrane

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Active Transport Through Cellular Sheets

Active Transport Through Cellular Sheets
At many places in the body, substances must be trans-ported all the way through a cellular sheet instead of simply through the cell membrane.

Active Transport Through Cellular Sheets

At many places in the body, substances must be trans-ported all the way through a cellular sheet instead of simply through the cell membrane. Transport of this type occurs through the (1) intestinal epithelium, (2) epithelium of the renal tubules, (3) epithelium of all exocrine glands, (4) epithelium of the gallbladder, and (5) membrane of the choroid plexus of the brain and other membranes.

The basic mechanism for transport of a substance through a cellular sheet is (1) active transport through the cell membrane on one side of the transporting cells in the sheet, and then (2) either simple diffusion or facilitated diffusion through the membrane on the opposite side of the cell.



Figure 4–13 shows a mechanism for transport of sodium ions through the epithelial sheet of the intestines, gallbladder, and renal tubules. This figure shows that the epithelial cells are connected together tightly at the luminal pole by means of junctions called “kisses.” The brush border on the luminal surfaces of the cells is permeable to both sodium ions and water.

Therefore, sodium and water diffuse readily from the lumen into the interior of the cell. Then, at the basal and lateral membranes of the cells, sodium ions are actively transported into the extracellular fluid of the surrounding connective tissue and blood vessels.

This creates a high sodium ion concentration gradient across these membranes, which in turn causes osmosis of water as well. Thus, active transport of sodium ions at the basolateral sides of the epithelial cells results in transport not only of sodium ions but also of water.

These are the mechanisms by which almost all the nutrients, ions, and other substances are absorbed into the blood from the intestine; they are also the way the same substances are reabsorbed from the glomerular filtrate by the renal tubules.


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