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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1127:3-19. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-11488-6_1.

Diffusion and Transport of Reactive Species Across Cell Membranes.

Author information

1
Laboratorio de Fisicoquímica Biológica, Instituto de Química Biológica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay. mmoller@fcien.edu.uy.
2
Center for Free Radical and Biomedical Research, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay. mmoller@fcien.edu.uy.
3
Center for Free Radical and Biomedical Research, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.
4
Laboratorio de Enzimología, Instituto de Química Biológica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.
5
Laboratorio de Fisicoquímica Biológica, Instituto de Química Biológica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Abstract

This chapter includes an overview of the structure of cell membranes and a review of the permeability of membranes to biologically relevant oxygen and nitrogen reactive species, namely oxygen, singlet oxygen, superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, peroxynitrite and also hydrogen sulfide. Physical interactions of these species with cellular membranes are discussed extensively, but also their relevance to chemical reactions such as lipid peroxidation. Most of these species are involved in different cellular redox processes ranging from physiological pathways to damaging reactions against biomolecules. Cell membranes separate and compartmentalize different processes, inside or outside cells, and in different organelles within cells. The permeability of these membranes to reactive species varies according to the physicochemical properties of each molecule. Some of them, such as nitric oxide and oxygen, are small and hydrophobic and can traverse cellular membranes virtually unhindered. Nitrogen dioxide and hydrogen sulfide find a slightly higher barrier to permeation, but still their diffusion is largely unimpeded by cellular membranes. In contrast, the permeability of cellular membranes to the more polar hydrogen peroxide, is up to five orders of magnitude lower, allowing the formation of concentration gradients, directionality and effective compartmentalization of its actions which can be further regulated by specific aquaporins that facilitate its diffusion through membranes. The compartmentalizing effect on anionic species such as superoxide and peroxynitrite is even more accentuated because of the large energetic barrier that the hydrophobic interior of membranes presents to ions that may be overcome by protonation or the use of anion channels. The large difference in cell membrane permeability for different reactive species indicates that compartmentalization is possible for some but not all of them.

KEYWORDS:

Cell membrane; Membrane permeability; Reactive nitrogen species; Reactive oxygen species

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