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The metabolic implications of intracellular circulation

  • P. W. Hochachka
The National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Oct 26, 1999
  • Biology


Two views currently dominate research into cell function and regulation. Model I assumes that cell behavior is quite similar to that expected for a watery bag of enzymes and ligands. Model II assumes that three-dimensional order and structure constrain and determine metabolite behavior. A major problem in cell metabolism is determining why essentially all metabolite concentrations are remarkably stable (are homeostatic) over large changes in pathway fluxes—for convenience, this is termed the [s] stability paradox. For muscle cells, ATP and O2 are the most perfectly homeostatic, even though O2 delivery and metabolic rate correlate in a 1:1 fashion. In total, more than 60 metabolites are known to be remarkably homeostatic in differing metabolic states. Several explanations of [s] stability are usually given by traditional model I studies—none of which apply to all enzymes in a pathway, and all of which require diffusion as the means for changing enzyme–substrate encounter rates. In contrast, recent developments in our understanding of intracellular myosin, kinesin, and dyenin motors running on actin and tubulin tracks or cables supply a mechanistic basis for regulated intracellular circulation systems with cytoplasmic streaming rates varying over an approximately 80-fold range (from 1 to >80 μm × sec−1). These new studies raise a model II hypothesis of intracellular perfusion or convection as a primary means for bringing enzymes and substrates together under variable metabolic conditions. In this view, change in intracellular perfusion rates cause change in enzyme–substrate encounter rates and thus change in pathway fluxes with no requirement for large simultaneous changes in substrate concentrations. The ease with which this hypothesis explains the [s] stability paradox is one of its most compelling features.

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