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Biophys Chem. 2002 Jun 19;97(2-3):87-111.

Thermodynamics and bioenergetics.

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Science and Engineering, Winona State University, 203A Stark Hall, Winona, MN 55987, USA.


Bioenergetics is concerned with the energy conservation and conversion processes in a living cell, particularly in the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. This review summarizes the role of thermodynamics in understanding the coupling between the chemical reactions and the transport of substances in bioenergetics. Thermodynamics has the advantages of identifying possible pathways, providing a measure of the efficiency of energy conversion, and of the coupling between various processes without requiring a detailed knowledge of the underlying mechanisms. In the last five decades, various new approaches in thermodynamics, non-equilibrium thermodynamics and network thermodynamics have been developed to understand the transport and rate processes in physical and biological systems. For systems not far from equilibrium the theory of linear non-equilibrium thermodynamics is used, while extended non-equilibrium thermodynamics is used for systems far away from equilibrium. All these approaches are based on the irreversible character of flows and forces of an open system. Here, linear non-equilibrium thermodynamics is mostly discussed as it is the most advanced. We also review attempts to incorporate the mechanisms of a process into some formulations of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The formulation of linear non-equilibrium thermodynamics for facilitated transport and active transport, which represent the key processes of coupled phenomena of transport and chemical reactions, is also presented. The purpose of this review is to present an overview of the application of non-equilibrium thermodynamics to bioenergetics, and introduce the basic methods and equations that are used. However, the reader will have to consult the literature reference to see the details of the specific applications.

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