The chemistry behind anion transport

An essential feature of cell function and development is the transportation of molecules across the cell wall.

The maxim of ‘like dissolves like’ is well known by every high school chemist and is the reason why the cell itself does not dissolve; the cell wall and the water outside it naturally repel each other.

Whilst this is excellent news for the stability of the cell, it presents a problem for the water-soluble molecules trying to get into the cell.  If such a molecule is dissolved in water outside of the cell then it follows that it will be unhappy passing through the greasy cell wall.

Nature as always has a solution and solves this problem by effectively wrapping up these molecules in an oily layer making transport across the cell wall more efficient.  A similar concept is responsible for the cleaning action of detergent in a dirty cooking pan.

This transportation is of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry where transport of small drug molecules into cells is of paramount importance.  Drugs can have remarkable activity in a laboratory experiment but if it cannot find its way into the cell then it will be unable to achieve this in a person.  Understanding the factors which control this process is therefore crucial.

Prof. Philip Gale’s research group at the University of Southampton along with co-workers at the Universidade de Aveiro have published a detailed and systematic study which highlights some critical features of molecules which are capable of fulfilling this role.

Interested in more?  Read this HOT Chem Sci Edge article now!

Towards predictable transmembrane transport: QSAR analysis of anion binding and transport
Nathalie Busschaert, Samuel J. Bradberry, Marco Wenzel, Cally J. E. Haynes, Jennifer R. Hiscock, Isabelle L. Kirby, Louise E. Karagiannidis, Stephen J. Moore, Neil J. Wells, Julie Herniman, G. John Langley, Peter N. Horton, Mark E. Light, Igor Marques, Paulo J. Costa, Vítor Félix, Jeremy G. Frey and Philip A. Gale
Chem. Sci., 2013, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C3SC51023A

Ruaraidh McIntosh is a guest web-writer for Chemical Science.  His research interests include supramolecular chemistry and catalysis.  When not working as a Research Fellow at Heriot-Watt University, Ruaraidh can usually be found in the kitchen where he has found a secondary application for his redoubtable skills of burning and profanity.

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