Permeability in relation to respiration

  • Paul J. Kramer
Part of the Handbuch der Pflanzenphysiologie / Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology book series (532, volume 2)


In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to define or describe permeability with any degree of precision. In general terms permeability is a property of membranes and refers to the extent to which various substances can pass through them. In order to make comparisons of permeability it is necessary also to describe the forces causing movement across the membrane. Brooks and Brooks (1941) defined permeability as the rate of movement of a substance through a permeable layer under a given driving force. This, as they state, involves two concepts which should be distinguished. One is permeability in its narrowest sense, a property of a membrane, and the other is the driving force which causes movement across the membrane. In the simpler instances of movement by diffusion along activity gradients the driving force may be quite distinct from any property of the membrane, but where “active transport” or accumulation is involved it may be related to certain properties of the membrane itself. Teorell (1949, 1953) also distinguishes between permeability in its narrow sense as a property of the membrane, and the forces causing movement across the membrane. He reminds his readers that failure of a substance to enter a cell can result either from inability to pass through the membrane (impermeability) or from lack of a driving force to cause movement across the membrane.


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© Springer-Verlag OHG. Berlin · Göttingen · Heidelberg 1956

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  • Paul J. Kramer

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