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Active Transport

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IVSAT 2024

The procedure of movement of molecules, from a region of their lower concentration to a region of their higher concentration, through a membrane —against the concentration gradient is called Active Transport in cellular biology. Active transport requires cellular energy to carry out this movement. There are two types of active transport. They are primary active transport that uses ATP, and secondary active transport that uses an electrochemical gradient. A basic example of active transport is the uptake of glucose in the intestines in human physiology.

Mechanism of Cellular Active Transport

Contrary to passive transport, which takes place with the assistance of kinetic energy and natural entropy of particles moving down an angle, active transport utilizes cell energy to move the atoms against a gradient, polar aversion, or other obstruction. Active transport is for the most part related to high concentrations of molecules that the cell requires, for example, ions, or amino acids. At the point when the procedure utilizes chemical energy, for example, from adenosine triphosphate (ATP), it is called primary active transport. Secondary active transport incorporates the utilization of an electrochemical gradient. Examples of active transport include carrying glucose in the digestive tracts and the take-up of ions into root hair cells of plants.


There are two ways in which active transport occurs:

  • Primary Active Transport

  • Secondary Active Transport

In Primary Active Transport, the proteins included are pumps that regularly utilize chemical energy as ATP. Optional active transport, nonetheless, makes utilization of potential energy, which is generally inferred through misuse of an electrochemical gradient. The energy made from one ion moving down its electrochemical gradient is utilized to power the passage of another ion moving against its electrochemical gradient. This includes pore-forming proteins that structure channels over the cell membrane. The difference between pore-forming passive transport and active transport is that active transport requires vitality, and moves substances against their individual concentration gradient, while passive transport requires no vitality and moves substances towards their particular concentration gradient.

Primary Active Transport

Primary active transport, also known as direct active transport, carries molecules across a membrane using metabolic energy. 

Examples of such substances that are carried across the cell membrane by primary active transport include metal ions, are Na+, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+. These charged ions require ion pumps/channels to cross membranes and distribute throughout the body.

Enzymes that take part in this type of transport are transmembrane ATPase. The most basic ATPase universal to all animal life is the sodium-potassium pump, which helps to maintain the cell potential. The sodium-potassium pump maintains the membrane potential by moving three Na+ ions out of the cell and replacing it with every two K+ ions moved into the cell. Redox energy and photon energy (light) are some other sources of energy for Primary active transport. The use of Redox energy for primary active transport is the mitochondrial electron transport chain that uses the reduction energy of NADH to move protons across the inner mitochondrial membrane against a concentration gradient is an example where Redox energy comes into play. Photosynthesis is an example of active transport using light energy. The proteins involved in this case use the energy of photons to create a proton gradient across the membrane and also to create reduction power in the form of NADPH.

Active Transport Model

ATP hydrolysis is utilized for the transport of hydrogen ions against the electrochemical gradient (from low to high hydrogen ion concentration). Phosphorylation of the carrier protein and the binding of a hydrogen ion generate a conformational (shape) change that drives the hydrogen ions to transport against the electrochemical gradient. Hydrolysis of the phosphates and release of hydrogen ions then rebuild the carrier to its original conformation.

Types of Primary Active Transporters

  1. P-ATPase: sodium-potassium pump, calcium pump, proton pump 

  2. F-ATPase: mitochondrial ATP synthase, chloroplast ATP synthase 

  3. V-ATPase: vacuolar ATPase 

  4. ABC (ATP binding tape) Transporter: MDR, CFTR, and so on. 

Adenosine Triphosphate-binding tape transporters (ABC transporters) involve extensive and various protein families, regularly working as ATP-driven pumps. Ordinarily, there are a few areas associated with the general transporter protein's structure, including two nucleotide-binding spaces that establish the ATP-binding theme and two hydrophobic transmembrane areas that make the "pore" segment. In wide terms, ABC transporters are associated with the import or export of particles over a cell layer; yet inside the protein family, there is a broad range of functions.

In plants, ABC transporters are frequently found inside cell and organelle layers, for example, the mitochondria, chloroplast, and plasma film. There is proof to support that plant ABC transporters have a role to play in pathogen reaction, phytohormone transport, and detoxification. Furthermore, certain plant ABC transporters may work ineffectively exporting volatile compounds and antimicrobial metabolites.

Furthermore, in plants, ABC transporters might be associated with the carrier of cell metabolites. Pleiotropic Drug Resistance ABC carriers are said to be associated with stress response and export antimicrobial metabolites. 

Secondary Active Transport

In secondary active transport, otherwise called coupled transport or cotransport, energy is utilized to transport particles over a membrane; however, unlike primary active transport, there is no immediate coupling of ATP; rather it depends upon the electrochemical potential difference made by pumping particles in/out of the cell. Permitting one particle or ion to move down an electrochemical gradient, yet possibly against the concentration gradient where it is increasingly concentrated to that where it is less concentrated expands entropy and can fill in as a wellspring for digestion (for example in ATP synthase). The energy received from the pumping of protons over a cell membrane is frequently utilized as the energy source in secondary active transport. In humans, sodium (Na+) is an ordinarily co-transported particle over the plasma film, whose electrochemical gradient is then used to control the active transport of a second particle or ion against its gradient. In microscopic organisms and little yeast cells, a usually co-transported particle is hydrogen. Hydrogen pumps are additionally used to make an electrochemical gradient to complete the procedures inside the cells, for example, in the electron transport chain, a vital function of cellular respiration that occurs in the mitochondria of the cell.


In an antiporter, two species of ion or different solutes are pumped in opposite directions over a membrane. One of these species is permitted to spill out of high to a low concentration which yields the entropic energy to drive the vehicle of the other solute from a low fixation region to a high one.

One such example is the sodium-calcium exchanger or antiporter, which permits three sodium ions into the cell to transport one calcium ion out. This antiporter system is vital inside the membranes of heart muscle cells so as to keep the calcium concentration in the cytoplasm low. Many cells likewise have calcium ATPase, which can work at lower intracellular convergences of calcium and sets the typical or resting centralization of this vital second messenger. But the ATPase sends out calcium particles all the more gradually: just 30 per second versus 2000 per second by the exchanger. The exchanger comes into play when the calcium concentration rises steeply or "spikes" and allows quick recovery. This demonstrates a single kind of particle can be transported by a few enzymes, which need not be active throughout, yet it may exist to meet specific, intermittent needs.


A symporter utilizes the reclining movement of one solute species from high concentration to low concentration to move another molecule uphill from low to high concentration region (against its concentration gradient). The two ions are transported in the same direction.

An example of a symporter is the glucose symporter SGLT1, which co-transports one glucose (or galactose) molecule into the cell for two sodium particles it brings into the cell. This symporter is situated in the small intestines, heart, and brain. This symporter is situated in the S3 section of the proximal tubule in each nephron in the kidneys. Its mechanism is exploited in glucose rehydration therapy. This mechanism utilizes the retention of sugar through the dividers of the digestive system to pull water in alongside it. Defects in SGLT2 prevent effective reabsorption of glucose, causing familial renal glycosuria.

Bulk Transport

Endocytosis and exocytosis are the two types of bulk transport that move materials into and out of cells, individually, by means of vesicles. In the case of endocytosis, the cell membrane folds around the materials outside the cell. The ingested molecule or particles end up caught inside a pocket, known as a vesicle, inside the cytoplasm. Frequently enzymes from lysosomes are then used to process the ions absorbed by this procedure. Substances that enter the cell by means of signal-mediated electrolysis incorporate proteins, hormones and growth and stabilization factors. Viruses enter cells through a type of endocytosis that includes their external membrane fusing with the membrane of the cell. This drives the viral DNA into the host cell. Exocytosis involves removing the substances through the fusion of the external cell membrane and a vesicle membrane. A case of exocytosis would be the transmission of synapses, over neurotransmitters between brain cells.

Tips on Making Efficient Biology Notes

The most important skill while learning Biology is to make efficient notes that can be referred to for exam preparations. Notes should be precise and concise at the same time. It should be well structured so a glance through the notes can help students to revise all major concepts of a topic. It is not always helpful to only listen to lectures, listening to the lectures and making notes for revision is a must so that all the important topics covered in the lecture are put across in your own words and your own understanding. Below are a few guidelines that can be followed to make efficient notes.

  • Focus on the Main Points of a Topic

The ability to focus on and write down the main points is a vital key to success in biology note-taking. Don't try to transcribe everything your lecturer says verbatim. It's also a good idea to take notes on anything the lecturer writes on the chalkboard or overhead projector. This comprises illustrations, diagrams, and examples.

  • Follow the Guidelines given by the Professor

Some professors offer course or lecture guidelines. Before class, review these recommendations to ensure that you are conversant with the material. Before class, read any prescribed materials as well. You will be better prepared to take notes if you know what will be covered ahead of time.

  • Legible Handwriting

Make sure to leave enough space between your notes so that you can interpret what you've written. Nothing is more infuriating than a page full of cramped, incomprehensible notes. You'll also want to allow enough room in case you need to add more information later.

  • Highlighting Keywords 

Many students think that underlining information in textbooks is beneficial. Make cautious to only highlight specific phrases or keywords while highlighting. If you highlight every sentence, it will be impossible to determine the exact elements on which you should concentrate.

  • Be Accurate 

Comparing your notes to the content in your biology textbook is an effective technique to guarantee that they are accurate. Furthermore, chat with the instructor personally and request feedback on your notes. Comparing notes with a classmate might also assist you in capturing facts that you may have overlooked.

  • Structure your notes

Reorganizing your notes accomplishes two goals. It enables you to redo your notes in a format that allows you to better understand them, as well as review the stuff you have written.

  • Review of notes

Once you've structured your biology notes, go over them again before the conclusion of the day. Make sure you understand the important points and produce a summary of the content. When preparing for a biology lab, it's also a good idea to go through your notes.

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FAQs on Active Transport

1. What are Electrochemical gradients? 

Concentration gradients are where the substance is found on the opposite sides of the membrane with different concentrations over a region. Atoms and molecules can combine to generate ions, which can carry positive or negative electrical charges. An electrical gradient, or charge differential, can also exist across a plasma membrane. In fact, live cells often have a membrane potential, which is an electrical potential differential (voltage) across their cell membrane. The electrochemical gradient is the combination of a concentration gradient and a voltage gradient that affects the mobility of an ion.

2. How can membranes affect movement? Explain with example

Consider sodium and potassium ions as examples of how the membrane potential might influence ion migration. In general, the interior of a cell has a higher potassium concentration and a lower sodium content than the extracellular fluid surrounding it. If sodium ions are present outside of a cell, they will tend to flow inside based on their concentration gradient and the voltage across the membrane. 

Because K is positive, the voltage across the membrane encourages it to enter the cell, while its concentration gradient tends to drive it out. The final potassium concentrations on both sides of the membrane will be a balance of these competing forces.

3. Explain Active Transport - Moving against a Gradient

A cell must employ energy to transfer substances against a concentration or electrochemical gradient. Active transport systems accomplish exactly that, burning energy in the form of ATP to maintain proper ion and molecule concentrations in live cells. In fact, cells need a large portion of the energy they generate during metabolism to power their active transport mechanisms. For example, the majority of the energy in a red blood cell is utilized to maintain internal sodium and potassium levels that differ from those in the surrounding environment.

4. Explain Symporter and Antiporter in Secondary Active Transport? 

The symporter and the antiporter have their own functions in secondary active transport. Secondary active transport allows two molecules to flow in either the same direction (i.e., both entering the cell) or in different directions (i.e., one into and one out of the cell). When they travel in the same way, the protein that transports them is referred to as a symporter; when they move in opposite directions, the protein is referred to as an antiporter.

5. Explain in brief The sodium-potassium pump cycle.

The sodium-potassium pump cycle consists of the protein switching between two states: an inward-facing form with a high affinity for sodium (but a low affinity for potassium) and an outward-facing form with a high affinity for potassium (and low affinity for sodium). The protein can switch between these states by adding or removing a phosphate group, which is controlled by the binding of the ions to be transported.

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