The title of this article is incorrect because of technical limitations. The correct title is Na+/K+-ATPase.

Na+/K+-ATPase (also known as the Na+/K+ pump or Na+/K+ exchanger) is an enzyme (EC ( located in the plasma membrane (specifically an electrogenic transmembrane ATPase). It is found in the plasma membrane of virtually every human cell and is common to all cellular life. It helps maintain cell potential and regulate cellular volume.



To maintain the cell potential, cells need to keep a low concentration of sodium ions, and high levels of potassium ions within the cell (intracellular). Outside cells (extracellular), there are high concentrations of sodium and low concentrations of potassium, so diffusion occurs through ion channels in the plasma membrane. To keep the appropriate concentrations the sodium-potassium pump pumps sodium out and potassium in.

The mechanism is:

  • The pump, with bound ATP, binds 3 intracellular Na+ ions.
  • ATP is hydrolyzed, leading to phosphorylation of a pump and release of ADP.
  • A conformational change in the pump exposes the Na+ ions to the outside. The phosphorylated form of the pump has a low affinity for sodium ions and they are released.
  • The pump binds 2 extracellular K+ ions, leading to the dephosphorylation of the pump.
  • ATP binds and the pump reorients to release potassium ions inside the cell and the pump is ready to go again.


As the plasma membane is far less permeable for sodium than it is for potassium, an electric potential (negative intacellularly) is the eventual result.

The electrical and concentration gradient established by the sodium-potassium ATPase supports not only the cell resting potential but the action potentials of nerves and muscles. Export of sodium from the cell provides the driving force for several facilitated transporters, which import glucose, amino acids and other nutrients into the cell. Translocation of sodium from one side of an epithelium to the other side creates an osmostic gradient that drives the absorption of water.

Another important task of the Na-K pump is to provide a Na gradient which is used by certain carrier processes. In the gut, for example, sodium is transported out of the resorbing cell on the blood side via the Na-K pump, while on the resorbing side, the Na-Glucose co-transporter uses the created Na gradient as a source of energy to import both Na and Glucose, which is far more efficient than simple diffusion. Similar processes are located in the renal tubular system.


The Na-K pump found in the membrane of heart cells is an important target of cardiac glycosides (for example digoxin and ouabaine), drugs used to improve heart performance by increasing its force of contraction. Contraction of any muscle is dependent on a 100-10,000 times higher-than-normal intercellular Ca concentration, which, as soon as it is put back again on its normal level by a carrier enzyme in the plasma membrane, will relax this muscle. Since this carrier enzyme (Na-Ca translocator) uses the Na gradient generated by the Na-K pump to remove Ca from the intercellular space, slowing down the Na-K pump results in a permanently higher Ca level in the muscle, which will eventually lead to stronger contractions.


NaKATPase was discovered by Jens Christian Skou in 1957. He published his work in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (vol. 23, pp. 394-401) in a paper entitled "The Influence of some Cations on an Adenosine Triphosphatase from Peripheral Nerves". At the time he was an assistant professor at the Department of Physiology, University of Aarhus, Denmark .

In 1997, for this discovery, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (jointly awarded with Paul D. Boyer, John E. Walker for their work on the "enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate").

See also

pl:Pompa sodowo-potasowa ru:NaK-АТФаза


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