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2.15: Active Transport

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Need to move something really heavy?

If you did, it would take a lot of energy. Sometimes, moving things into or out of the cell also takes energy. How would the cell move something against a concentration gradient? It starts by using energy.

Active Transport

In contrast to facilitated diffusion, which does not require energy and carries molecules or ions down a concentration gradient, active transport pumps molecules and ions against a concentration gradient. Sometimes an organism needs to transport something against a concentration gradient. The only way this can be done is through active transport, which uses energy that is produced by respiration (ATP). In active transport, the particles move across a cell membrane from a lower concentration to a higher concentration. Active transport is the energy-requiring process of pumping molecules and ions across membranes "uphill" - against a concentration gradient.

  • The active transport of small molecules or ions across a cell membrane is generally carried out by transport proteins that are found in the membrane.
  • Larger molecules such as starch can also be actively transported across the cell membrane by processes called endocytosis and exocytosis.

Homeostasis and Cell Function

Homeostasis refers to the balance, or equilibrium, within the cell or a body. It is an organism’s ability to keep a constant internal environment. Keeping a stable internal environment requires constant adjustments as conditions change inside and outside the cell. The adjusting of systems within a cell is called homeostatic regulation. Because the internal and external environments of a cell are constantly changing, adjustments must be made continuously to stay at or near the set point (the normal level or range). Homeostasis is a dynamic equilibrium rather than an unchanging state. The cellular processes discussed in both the "Passive Transport" and "Active Transport" concepts all play an important role in homeostatic regulation. You will learn more about homeostasis in other concepts.


  • Active transport is the energy-requiring process of pumping molecules and ions across membranes against a concentration gradient.
  • Active transport processes help maintain homeostasis.

Practice I

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is the main difference between active transport and diffusion?
  2. What is cotransport?
  3. What molecule is required in active transport?

Practice II

  • Active Transport


1. What is active transport?

2. Explain how cell transport helps an organism maintain homeostasis.

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active transport

Energy requiring movement of substances across a plasma membrane.

concentration gradient

Difference in the concentrations of a molecule across two distinct areas, such as a cell membrane.


Process of maintaining a stable environment inside a cell or an entire organism.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 17, 2016
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