Transport through lipids and aquaporins is osmotic and entirely driven by the difference in osmotic pressure. Water transport in cotransporters and uniporters is different: Water can be cotransported, energized by coupling to the substrate flux by a mechanism closely associated with protein. In the K+/Cl− and the Na+/K+/2Cl− cotransporters, water is entirely cotransported, while water transport in glucose uniporters and Na+-coupled transporters of nutrients and neurotransmitters takes place by both osmosis and cotransport. The molecular mechanism behind cotransport of water is not clear. It is associated with the substrate movements in aqueous pathways within the protein; a conventional unstirred layer mechanism can be ruled out, due to high rates of diffusion in the cytoplasm. The physiological roles of the various modes of water transport are reviewed in relation to epithelial transport. Epithelial water transport is energized by the movements of ions, but how the coupling takes place is uncertain. All epithelia can transport water uphill against an osmotic gradient, which is hard to explain by simple osmosis. Furthermore, genetic removal of aquaporins has not given support to osmosis as the exclusive mode of transport. Water cotransport can explain the coupling between ion and water transport, a major fraction of transepithelial water transport and uphill water transport. Aquaporins enhance water transport by utilizing osmotic gradients and cause the osmolarity of the transportate to approach isotonicity.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 30, 2009
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