Active Transport – Definition, Process, Primary & Secondary Active Transport


The movement of molecules from the area of low concentration to the area of higher concentration by the expenditure of energy is called active transport. It takes place against a concentration gradient. This requires energy in the form of ATP. Active transport is similar to facilitated diffusion.

But the carrier protein in the plasma membrane must use energy to move the molecules against their concentration gradient. Sodium potassium pump – the most essential pump in animals. Helps to maintain the high levels of potassium ions and low concentration of sodium ions inside the cell is an example of active transport.

The calcium pump is another active transport mechanism. It keeps the calcium concentration a hundred times lower inside the cell than outside.

Definition of Active Transport

“In cellular biology, active transport is the movement of molecules across a cell membrane from an area of lower concentration to an area of higher concentration—against the concentration gradient. Active transport requires cellular energy to attain this movement”.


Process of Active Transport

Active transport needs the energy to move substances from a low concentration of that substance to a high concentration of that substance. Active transportation is most frequently accomplished by a transport protein that goes through a modification in shape when it binds with the cell’s “fuel,” a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Types of Active Transport
Primary active transport

In this process of transport, the energy is utilized by the breakdown of the ATP– Adenosine triphosphate to transfer molecules throughout the membrane against a concentration gradient. For that reason, all the groups of ATP powered pumps include one or more binding sites for the ATP molecules, which exist on the cytosolic face of the membrane. Basically, the primary active transport uses external chemical energy such as the ATP.

Sodium-potassium pump, the most essential pump in the animal cell is thought about as an example of primary active transport. In this process of transport, the salt ions are transferred to the outside of the cell and potassium ions are moved to the inside of the cell.

Primary-active-transportSecondary active transport

Secondary active transport is a type of active transport that uses electrochemical energy. It takes place throughout a biological membrane where a transporter protein combines the motion of an electrochemical ion (generally Na+ or H+) down its electrochemical gradient to the upward movement of another molecule or an ion against a concentration or electrochemical gradient.

Electrochemical Gradient

The electrochemical gradient exists whenever there is a net distinction in charges. The positive and negative charges of a cell are separated by a membrane, where within the cell has additional negative charges than outside. The membrane capacity of a cell is -40 to -80 millivolts.

The cell has greater potassium concentration inside the cell but lower sodium concentration than the extracellular fluid. The sodium ions will move inside the cell-based upon the concentration gradient and voltage across the membrane.

The voltage across the membrane aids the movement of potassium into the cell, but its concentration gradient drives it out of the cell. The mix of voltage across the membrane and the concentration gradient that helps with the motion of ions is called the electrochemical gradient.



In the 4th type of active transportation, large products, or large amounts of extracellular fluid, might be taken into a cell through the process of endocytosis.

In endocytosis, the cell uses proteins in its membrane to fold the membrane into the shape of a pocket. This pocket forms around the contents to be taken into the cell. The pocket grows up until it is pinched off, re-forming the cell membrane around it and trapping the pocket and its contents inside the cell. These membrane pockets, which carry products within or between cells, are called “vesicles.”.

The folding of the cell membrane is achieved in a system of active transport of potassium and salt ions. Molecules of ATP bind to proteins in the cell membrane, causing them to alter their shape. The conformational modifications of many proteins together alter the shape of the cell membrane until a vesicle is produced.

In receptor-mediated endocytosis, a cell’s receptor may acknowledge a particular molecule that the cell “desires” to take in, and form a vesicle around the region where it recognizes the molecule. In other kinds of endocytosis, the cell relies on other hints to acknowledge and engulf a specific particle.



Exocytosis is the reverse of endocytosis. In exocytosis, the cell creates a vesicle to confine something inside the cell, for the function of moving it beyond the cell, across the membrane. This most typically occurs when a cell wishes to “export” an important product, such as cells that manufacture and export enzymes and hormonal secretions that are required by the body.

In eukaryotic cells, protein products are made in the endoplasmic reticulum. They are frequently packaged by the endoplasmic reticulum into vesicles and sent to the Golgi apparatus.

The Golgi complex can be thought about as a cellular “post office.” It gets packages from the endoplasmic reticulum, processes them, and “addresses” them by including molecules that will be recognized and received by receptors on the membrane of the cell planned to get the product.

The Golgi complex then packages the finished addressed products into vesicles of its own. These vesicles move towards the cell membrane, put in, and fuse with it, enabling the vesicle membrane to enter into the cell membrane. The vesicle’s contents are then spilled into the extracellular area.


Examples of Active Transport
Sodium Potassium Pump

One of the most important active transport proteins in animals is the sodium-potassium pump. As animals, our nerve system functions by keeping a distinction in ion concentrations between the inside and beyond nerve cells. It is this gradient that enables our afferent neuron to send, produce a contraction, feelings, sensations, and even thoughts and ideas.

Even our heart muscle depends on these ion gradients to contract. The capability of the sodium-potassium pump to transport potassium into cells while carrying sodium out of cells is so crucial that some estimates recommend we spend a total of 20-25% of all the energy we get from food simply performing this one task. In nerve cells, a great bulk of the cell’s energy is used to power sodium-potassium pumps.

This might sound like a great deal of energy; however, it is an important and prodigious job; it is this pump that enables us to move, think, pump blood across our bodies, and view the world around us.


White Blood Cells Killing Pathogens

An important example of endocytosis is the process by which leukocyte (white blood cells) “eat” pathogens. When white blood cells recognize a foreign thing inside the body, such as germs (bacteria or viruses), they fold their cell membrane around it to take it into their cytoplasm.

They then combine the vesicle including the intruder with a lysosome– a vesicle including strong chemicals and enzymes that can break down and digest organic matter. They have actually produced a cellular “stomach” to “digest” the invader.