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Facilitated diffusion

Facilitated diffusion is the process by which polar molecules diffuse across cell membranes with the help of transport proteins.

Small uncharged molecules can easily diffuse across cell membranes. However, due to the hydrophobic nature of the lipids that make up cell membranes, water-soluble molecules and ions cannot do so; instead, they are helped across by transport proteins. The transport protein involved is intrinsic, that is, it completely spans the membrane. It also has a binding site for the specific molecule (e.g., glucose) or ion to be transported. After binding the molecule, the protein changes shape and carries the molecule across the membrane, where it is released. The protein then returns to its original shape, to wait for more molecules to transport.

In contrast to active transport, facilitated diffusion does not require energy and carries molecules or ions down a concentration gradient.



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