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ATP: adenosine triphosphate. ATP is the energy-carrying molecule of all cells......more

Concentration gradient: a difference in concentration of a dissolved substance in solution. Areas with more of the substance have a higher concentration. Areas with less of the substance have a lower concentration.

Gradient: a slow or gradual change from one thing to another; a slope or hill.

Ion: an atom or molecule that does not have the same number of electrons as it has protons. This gives the atom or molecule a negative or positive charge... more

Phosphate: Phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in agriculture and industry.

Proton: the part of a molecule that has a positive electric charge; a hydrogen ion that has lost its electron (written as H+).

A Special Proton Pump

P-type ATPase pump

In areas with a higher proton concentration gradient, the Proton Pyrophosphatase pump moves hydrogen ions downhill. Click for more detail.

Just like other pumps, the Proton Pyrophosphatase pump usually moves hydrogen ions uphill. It gets its energy to do this by breaking down molecules known as pyrophosphates into two smaller phosphate molecules.

However, if the pump is in an area where the concentration gradient is too high, with too many hydrogen ions on one side, the pump works in the opposite direction. There, the pump moves ions downhill, and it combines two phosphate molecules into one molecule of pyrophosphate. Here, pyrophosphate can be used to make energy (ATP). Energy can then be used by a stronger proton pump to move protons out and make a stronger gradient.

A Prized Pump

One of the effects of this is that more sugars end up being passed into neighboring cells. Sugars are needed for plant growth, so in effect, this helps move sugars around the plant without using more materials than normal.

Sugar movement to root tips

As sugars move into the roots of plants, they create more root hairs, which enables the plant to better absorb phosphate. Click to enlarge.

To use this to our benefit, scientists have modified some plants to have more of these special Proton Pyrophosphatase pumps. These plants can supply extra sugars to different tissues. This makes the plants grow longer roots (which are good for absorbing nutrients like phosphorus) and grow more leafy tissues as well. So with a boost of these pumps, we can easily have larger plants that can make more fruits.

As there may be a phosphate shortage in the near future, a boost like this could be very important for growing crops. 

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: A Special Proton Pump
  • Author(s): Joshua Haussler, Karla Moeller
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: December 19, 2015
  • Date accessed: June 12, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

Joshua Haussler, Karla Moeller. (2015, December 19). A Special Proton Pump. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved June 12, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Joshua Haussler, Karla Moeller. "A Special Proton Pump". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 19 December, 2015.

MLA 2017 Style

Joshua Haussler, Karla Moeller. "A Special Proton Pump". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 19 Dec 2015. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 12 Jun 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Gaxiola lab

In the Gaxiola lab at Arizona State University, two researchers work to study the effects of the Proton Pyrophosphatase pump.

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