Cell Transport

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jen Moreau

Cell Membranes

Also known as the plasma membrane, this is the outer layer that covers all cells and certain cell organelles. The diagram below shows a simplified version of the fluid mosaic model of the membrane.

The membrane is made of a bilayer of phospholipids. The hydrophobic tails points inwards to keep away from the water, and the heads point outward. Embedded within the bilayer are proteins. Those which span the entire membrane are called intrinsic and those which sit on the surface extrinsic. These proteins are very important because they allow for active transport (see below), and along with carbohydrates, for identification and as receptors.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help


Diffusion is the movement of substances in the direction of a concentration gradient. That is a movement from a higher to a lower concentration and requires no energy. In simple diffusion, molecules which are soluble in lipids simply move between the phospholipids; but for other substance, like ions, it is more difficult.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Facilitated diffusion is still a movement in the direction of a concentration gradient; but it involves moving through a channel protein or a carrier protein. A channel protein is simply a pore in the membrane made of protein, and is often gated to control movement. A carrier protein has a binding site which the substance attaches to, and it is then moved through the membrane.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help


Osmosis is just diffusion with water: it just has a special name because water is very important to life. For more information about Osmosis see Osmosis. We speak about Osmosis in terms of water potential, which can be represented by the Greek letter Ψ 'psy'. We say that water moves to a less negative water potential because in distilled water, Y = 0. So the more concentrated a solution is, the more negative it's water potential is.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  1. 1
    Isotonic Solution
    An isotonic solution has the same water potential as the cell, so there is no net movement of water and a cell stays the same size.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    A hypertonic solution has a more negative water potential (more concentrated), therefore water leaves the cell
    An animal cell crenates (shrinks) and a plant cell will become plasmolysed. The diagram below shows this.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  3. 3
    Hypotonic Solution
    A hypotonic solution has a less negative water potential (less concentrated). This means more water enters the cell. An animal cell may burst (lysis), however, a plant cell, which has a cell wall to protect it, will become turgid.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Active Transport

This is the movement of particles across a membrane by carrier proteins, against the concentration gradient. Because of this, the process requires energy. The most common way to do this is using a protein pump. This is an enzyme imbedded in the membrane. This enzyme catalyses ATP, which produces energy. This energy then causes it to change shape and move the substance through the pump. Every molecule has a different protein pump.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Referencing this Article

If you need to reference this article in your work, you can copy-paste the following depending on your required format:

APA (American Psychological Association)
Cell Transport. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Sep 24, 2023, from https://scienceaid.net/biology/cell/transport.html

MLA (Modern Language Association) "Cell Transport." ScienceAid, scienceaid.net/biology/cell/transport.html Accessed 24 Sep 2023.

Chicago / Turabian ScienceAid.net. "Cell Transport." Accessed Sep 24, 2023. https://scienceaid.net/biology/cell/transport.html.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


ScienceAid welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.

Article Info

Categories : Cell

Recent edits by: Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,190 times.


Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No