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Local Attraction of Substrates and Co-Substrates Enhances Weak Acid and Base Transmembrane Transport

The transmembrane transport of weak acid and base metabolites depends on the local pH conditions that affect the protonation status of the substrates and the availability of co-substrates, typically protons. Different protein designs ensure the attraction of substrates and co-substrates to the transporter entry sites. These include electrostatic surface charges on the transport proteins and complexation with seemingly transport-unrelated proteins that provide substrate and/or proton antenna, or enzymatically generate substrates in place. Such protein assemblies affect transport rates and directionality. The lipid membrane surface also collects and transfers protons. The complexity in the various systems enables adjustability and regulation in a given physiological or pathophysiological situation. This review describes experimentally shown principles in the attraction and facilitation of weak acid and base transport substrates, including monocarboxylates, ammonium, bicarbonate, and arsenite, plus protons as a co-substrate.

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