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Neuronal Signaling and Sodium-Potassium Pump

Our neurons use electrical impulses and complex molecular machinery to communicate information throughout our bodies. In order to be ready to transfer the signal when it arrives, the neurons need to maintain high concentrations of sodium on the outside of the membrane and potassium ions on the inside. With each signal transmission, sodium enters the neuron followed by potassium exiting the cell.

The sodium potassium pump is a transport protein that regulates and restores the gradients of sodium and potassium ions across the membrane. With each pumping cycle, it transports 2 potassium ions back into the cell, and 3 sodium ions out of the cell.

Using structures from the Protein Data Bank, this animation shows how the essential proteins work together to prepare for and conduct the neuronal signal. The video zooms in on the mechanism sodium-potassium pump to explore the concept of the active membrane transport.

To learn more about the proteins shown in this video, read the Molecule of the Month articles on Voltage-gated Sodium Channel, Potassium Channels, and Sodium-Potassium Pump.

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