Sodium Potassium Pump Study Guide


Sodium potassium pump, also called Na / K pump or Na / K ATPase is a protein pump found in the cell membrane of neurons. It transports sodium and potassium ions through the cell membrane at a ratio of 3 sodium ions for every two introduced potassium ions. Pumps help stabilize membrane potentials and are essential for creating the conditions necessary to induce action potentials.

What is the Sodium Potassium Pump?

Channel Proteins of the Sodium-Potassium Pump

Active transport is an energy-consuming process in which molecules and ions are pumped “uphill” through a membrane against a concentration gradient. Carrier proteins are required to move these molecules against the concentration gradient.

While carrier proteins function in concentration gradients (during passive transport), some carriers can move solutes against concentration gradients (low to high) by energy input. Carrier proteins are called pumps because they are used in active transport to move substances against a concentration gradient. Like other types of cellular activity, ATP provides the most energy for active transport.

One way ATP promotes active transport is to transfer phosphate groups directly to carrier proteins. This can change the shape of the carrier protein and allow molecules or ions to move to the other side of the membrane. The answer to many more questions, like what a sodium-potassium pump does or the function of a Sodium-Potassium Pump, is given below in the article.

Sodium-Potassium Pump

What is the purpose of Sodium Potassium Pump?

The Sodium-Potassium Pump, or Na, K pump, or Na / K-ATPase, actively transports Na and K ions. Establishing mammalian cell membranes Maintains the characteristic transmembrane gradient of Na and K ions. This feature is essentially everything in Mammalian cell physiology. For example, The kidney controls the Na, K pump, Body Na and K balance, extracellular Volume, and blood pressure.

Function of Sodium Potassium Pump

  • Potassium sodium pump functions include sodium and potassium gradients acting on the physiological processes of various organ systems.

  • The kidneys have high Na, K-ATPase expression levels, and the distal tubules express up to 50 million pumps per cell.

  • This sodium gradient is necessary for the kidneys to filter waste products in the blood, absorb amino acids, absorb glucose, regulate electrolyte levels, and maintain pH levels.

  • Sperm cells also use Na, K-ATPase, but use different isoforms needed for male fertility.

  • Sperms require Na, K-ATPase to regulate the membrane potential and ions required for sperm motility and sperm acrosome function during egg penetration.

  • The brain also needs NA and K-ATPase activity. Neurons require a Na, K-ATPase pump to reverse the postsynaptic sodium flow to restore the potassium and sodium gradients needed to induce action potentials.

  • Since the sodium gradient maintains the reuptake of neurotransmitters, astrocytes also require a Na, K-ATPase pump to maintain the sodium gradient.

  • Na, K ATPase in gray matter consumes a lot of energy, and up to three-quarters of the energy is absorbed by Na, K ATPase in gray matter. Still, only one-quarter of the total energy in protein synthesis is used for molecular synthesis.

What does the Sodium Potassium Pump do?

Since Na K ATPase is essential for maintaining various cellular functions, its inhibition can cause various pathological conditions. The role of the sodium-potassium pump is mentioned below:

Sodium Potassium Pump Work

  • An important clinical application is cardiovascular pharmacology. For example, ouabain is a cardiac glycoside inhibiting Na K -ATPase binding to the K site. Other cardiac glycosides, such as digoxin and digitoxin, directly inhibit Na K ATPase.

  • Since Na K ATPase cannot send K to the cell or Na from the cell. This inhibition causes excess K to accumulate extracellularly and excess Na to accumulate inside the cell increases. This accumulation of intracellular Na interferes with the concentration gradient that normally drives the Na / Ca 2 channel exchanger. This is because the concentration gradient is not favorable for Na, so it usually sends Na into the cell and excretes Ca 2 from the cell.

  • Invading cells and infiltrating excess Na are accumulated inside the cells. Therefore, this indirect inhibition of Na / Ca 2 exchange is that Ca 2 cannot be taken up into the cell.

  • The exchanger cannot release Ca 2 from the cell, so Ca 2 is intracellular causes the accumulation of calcium. This increased intracellular Ca 2 increases the contractility of the heart. This positive inotropic action stimulates the vagus nerve, leading to a decrease in heart rate.

  • This physiology is clinically important in the treatment of heart failure because it increases the contractility of the heart. It is also clinically useful in treating atrial fibrillation because it reduces the conduction of the atrioventricular node and causes depression in the sinoatrial node.

  • Another important clinical application includes the action of beta-adrenergic agonists in increasing the number of Na / K -ATPase channels. This is because beta-adrenergic agonists may increase gene expression in the Na K ATPase pump.

    • This will eventually increase the amount of enzyme and increase the enzyme’s activity. This increase in Na / K ATPase sends more potassium to the cells, leading to the accumulation of intracellular potassium.

    • This inward shift of potassium to the outside of the cell leads to hypokalemia of the extracellular blood.

    • Therefore, beta-adrenergic agonists can also cause increased extracellular Na transport. Increased extracellular Na transport through alveolar epithelial cells.

    • This causes the lung fluid to follow this Na flow and ultimately stimulates lung fluid clearance.

  • Insulin also has clinically significant effects on Na / K ATPase. Insulin also increases the number of Na / K ATPase pumps in the membrane, which causes the intracellular shift of potassium and causes hypokalemia in the extracellular space of blood.

  • Na K ATPase and its endogenous regulator, endogenous cardiac steroids (ECS), play a role in the pathogenesis of bipolar disorder and are potential targets for drug development for treatment.

Resting Potential

  • A resting potential is generated by neurons pumping sodium and potassium ions across their membranes.

  • Positively charged ions (Na+ and K+) flow across the membrane of neurons to generate and conduct electrical signals.

  • It is the unequal distribution of ions on different sides of the membrane that leads to a charge difference called a membrane potential. In an unfiring neuron, the resting potential is a difference in charge across the membrane.

  • Neurons typically have a negative resting potential (approximately –70 mV) on their insides.

  • The sodium-potassium pumps are responsible for maintaining a resting potential (i.e. ATP-dependent).

  • The sodium-potassium pump (antiport) is a transmembrane protein involved in the exchange of sodium and potassium ions.

  • The cell will excrete three Na+ ions for every two K+ ions it admits additionally, some K+ ions will escape.

  • As a result, there is an electrochemical gradient within the cell wherein the interior is relatively negative compared to the extracellular environment because there are more positively charged ions outside of the cell and more negatively charged ions within.

  • A process dependent on energy is required to exchange sodium and potassium ions.

Reversal Potential

  • It is still possible for K+ and Na+ ions to have very different equilibrium potentials, regardless of their charges.

  • As the Na+ and K+ concentrations within and outside the cell increase, the sodium-potassium pump moves toward a non-equilibrium state.

  • As an example, cytosol contains 80mM K+, while cytosol contains 8mM Na+. In case of extracellular space, the concentration of K⁺ is 3mM, while the concentration of Na⁺ is 130mM.

Controlling Neuron Activity

  • Cerebellar Purkinje neurons, accessory olfactory bulb mitral cells, and possibly other types of neurons are controlled and set by the Na⁺-K⁺ pump.

  • According to this hypothesis, the pump could function as a computation element in the brain and cerebellum, rather than just as a homeostatic, “housekeeping” molecule.

  • Dystonia-parkinsonism, caused by a mutation in the Na⁺-K⁺ pump, is a pathology of cerebellar computation with symptoms of rapid onset.

  • A live mouse also exhibits ataxia and dystonia when Na+-K+ pumps in the cerebellum are blocked by ouabain.

  • Alcohol likely impairs cerebellar computation and bodily coordination by impeding sodium-potassium pumps in the cerebellum.

  • Epilepsy and brain abnormalities are just two of the disorders associated with the Na+-K+ pump dysfunction.


Active transport is an energy-intensive process in which molecules and ions are pumped through a membrane against a concentration gradient. It transfers two potassium ions to cells with high potassium levels and pumps three sodium ions to the extracellular fluid. The role of the sodium-potassium pump is to move sodium and potassium ions against a large concentration gradient.


1. How do sodium and potassium pumps work?

Move sodium ions out of the cell and move potassium ions. The NaK pump moves three or more ions out of the cell for every two injections. The potential difference essential for generating the resting potential of nerve cells is generated.

2. What is the sodium-potassium pump process called?

Active transport is an energy-intensive process in which molecules and ions are pumped through a membrane against a concentration gradient. The sodium-potassium pump is a transport pump. It exchanges sodium ions for potassium ions.

3. What is the difference between endocytosis and exocytosis?

Endocytosis is the transport to cells, and exocytosis is the transport from cells. The difference is that vesicles from around the molecule that enters endocytosis form vesicles.

4. What is the role of vesicles in endocytosis and exocytosis?

The walls of the vesicles are also composed of a lipid bilayer, which allows them to fuse with the cell membrane. This fusion between the vesicle and the plasma membrane facilitates mass transfer into and out of the cell.

5. Why sodium-potassium pump is important?

NaK pumps are special transport proteins in cell membranes. In the kidneys, the NaK pump helps maintain the balance of sodium and potassium in the body. It plays a vital role in maintaining blood pressure and controlling the heart’s contraction. Failure of the NaK pump can lead to cell expansion.

6. What is the function of Na K ATPase?

Na, K-ATPase, and Na pumps are transmembrane proteins belonging to the P-type ATPase family. Its main physiological role is to maintain a large inward gradient for sodium (Na ) and outward gradient for potassium (K ) across the plasma membrane of all animal cells.

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