The movement of fluid and solutes across biological membranes facilitates the transport of nutrients for living organisms and maintains the fluid and osmotic pressures in biological systems. Understanding the pressure balances across membranes is crucial for studying fluid and electrolyte homeostasis in living systems, and is an area of active research. In this study, a set of enhanced Kedem-Katchalsky (KK) equations is proposed to describe fluxes of water and solutes across biological membranes, and is applied to analyze the relationship between fluid and osmotic pressures, accounting for active transport mechanisms that propel substances against their concentration gradients and for fixed charges that alter ionic distributions in separated environments. The equilibrium analysis demonstrates that the proposed theory recovers the Donnan osmotic pressure and can predict the correct fluid pressure difference across membranes, a result which cannot be achieved by existing KK theories due to the neglect of fixed charges. The steady-state analysis on active membranes suggests a new pressure mechanism which balances the fluid pressure together with the osmotic pressure. The source of this pressure arises from active ionic fluxes and from interactions between solvent and solutes in membrane transport. We apply the proposed theory to study the transendothelial fluid pressure in the in vivo cornea, which is a crucial factor maintaining the hydration and transparency of the tissue. The results show the importance of the proposed pressure mechanism in mediating stromal fluid pressure and provide a new interpretation of the pressure modulation mechanism in the in vivo cornea.
Cheng, X., & Pinsky, P. M. (2015). The Balance of Fluid and Osmotic Pressures across Active Biological Membranes with Application to the Corneal Endothelium. PLoS ONE, 10(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0145422