Rotary Molecular Motors Driven by Transmembrane Ionic Currents
September 28, 2022
There are two rotary motors in biology, ATP synthase and the bacterial flagellar motor. Both are driven by transmembrane ionic currents. We consider an idealized model of such a motor, essentially an electrostatic turbine. The model has a rotor and a stator, which are closely fitting cylinders. Attached to the rotor is a fixed density of negative charge, with helical symmetry. Positive ions move longitudinally by drift and diffusion on the stator. A key assumption is local electroneutrality of the combined charge distribution. With this setup we derive explicit formulae for the transmembrane current and the angular velocity of the rotor in terms of the transmembrane electrochemical potential difference of the positive ions and the mechanical torque on the motor. This relationship between "forces" and "fluxes" turns out to be linear, and given by a symmetric positive definite matrix, as anticipated by non-equilibrium thermodynamics, although we do not make any use of that formalism in deriving the result. The equal off-diagonal terms of this 2x2 matrix describe the electromechanical coupling of the motor. Although macroscopic, the model can be used as a foundation for stochastic simulation via the Einstein relation.