This article gives a history of the evidence () that animal cell membranes contain pumps that expel sodium ions in exchange for potassium ions; () that the pump derives energy from the hydrolysis of ATP; () that it is thermodynamically reversible—artificially steep transmembrane ion gradients make it run backward synthesizing ATP from ADP and orthophosphate; () that its mechanism is a ping-pong one, in which phosphorylation of the pump by ATP is associated with an efflux of three sodium ions, and hydrolysis of the phosphoenzyme is associated with an influx of two potassium ions; () that each half of the working cycle involves both the transfer of a phosphate group and a conformational change—the phosphate transfer being associated with the occlusion of ions bound at one surface and the conformational change releasing the occluded ions at the opposite surface.


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