A fundamental requirement of all eukaryotes is the ability to translocate protons across membranes. This is critical in bioenergetics, for compartmentalized metabolism, and to regulate intracellular pH (pHi) within a range that is compatible with cellular metabolism. Plants, animals, and algae utilize specialized transport machinery for membrane energization and pH homeostasis that reflects the prevailing ionic conditions in which they evolved. The recent characterization of H+-permeable channels in marine and freshwater algae has led to the discovery of novel functions for these transport proteins in both cellular pH homeostasis and sensory biology. Here we review the potential implications for understanding the origins and evolution of membrane excitability and the phytoplankton-based marine ecosystem responses to ocean acidification.
Taylor A. R., Brownlee C. & Wheeler G. L., in press. Proton channels in algae: reasons to be excited. Trends in Plant Science. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2012.06.009. Article (subscription required).