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Trends Biochem Sci. 2005 Oct;30(10):536-41.

Electrochemical structure of the crowded cytoplasm.

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IPM Emulsion Polymer Research, 6643 Lyndonville Drive, Charlotte, NC 28277-4616, USA.


The current view of the cytoplasm as a 'bustling and well-organized metropolitan city' raises the issue of how physicochemical forces control the macromolecular interactions and transport of metabolites and energy in the cell. Motivated by studies on bacterial osmosensors, we argue that charged cytoplasmic macromolecules are stabilized electrostatically by their ionic atmospheres. The high cytoplasmic crowding (25-50% of cell volume) shapes the remaining cell volume (50-75%) into transient networks of electrolyte pathways and pools. The predicted 'semi-conductivity' of the electrolyte pathways guides the flow of biochemical ions throughout the cytoplasm. This metabolic and signaling current is powered by variable electrochemical gradients between the pools. The electrochemical gradients are brought about by cellular biochemical reactions and by extracellular stimuli. The cellular metabolism is thus vectorial not only across the membrane but also throughout the cytoplasm.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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