Are Membrane Proteins Carrier Proteins: 7 Facts You Must Know!

No, rather it is that carrier proteins are a class or type of membrane proteins.

Membrane proteins are basically classified into carrier proteins and channel proteins. Hence technically carrier proteins are membrane proteins.

So are membrane proteins carrier proteins? well not all. Unlike carrier proteins, not all types of membrane proteins have the ability to support the active transportation of molecules and ions.

Are all membrane proteins carrier proteins?

Not all membrane proteins are not carrier proteins but the reverse is true.

Membrane proteins are of 2 main types- channel proteins and carrier proteins. Membrane proteins are integral proteins that are found in the cell membrane and are associated with the transport of materials across it.

Image of the structure of integral membrane proteins Image: Wikipedia

Carrier proteins and channel proteins have different structures, features and functions. Carrier proteins are only responsible for the transport of molecules, while channel proteins are responsible for shuttling ions.

So membrane proteins are not all carrier proteins, they may also include channel proteins.

What type of proteins are carrier proteins?

Carrier proteins are classified as integral transmembrane proteins.

Carrier proteins partake in the diffusion and transport across the molecules across the membrane- both active and passive type.

How a carrier protein the Sodium potassium pump functions
Image: Wikipedia

Membrane proteins are embedded in the cell membrane, which allows for the transportation of molecules across the cell. Carrier proteins are essentially glycoproteins i.e. a protein and carbohydrate complex.

Glycoproteins are one of the type of modified proteins. These modified proteins have a glycan or polysaccharide chain attached to them. These types of proteins are formed during post-translational modification of the translated protein.

What type of membrane protein is a carrier protein?

A carrier protein is classified as an IMP or integral membrane protein that is is also membrane transversering.

Membrane transporters are complex molecules that allow molecules and ions to move through the lipid phospholipid bilayer. Carrier protein is one sort of membrane transporter.

Since carrier protein is a transporter it is classified as an integral transmembrane protein that is permanently embedded in the lipid bilayer. These proteins span the entire bilayer from the cell exterior to the cell interior allowing molecules to move across.

Are carrier proteins transport proteins?

Yes, carrier proteins are classied as transverse mebrane transporters.

Transport proteins are technically integral membrane proteins that allow for the passage of molecules and ions to and from the cell by active or passive transport.

Carrier and channel proteins are both types of transport proteins. They are in charge of ion transportation, respectively. As the name suggests channel proteins are pipe-like channels that pass ions through them.

Carrier proteins on the other hand have to vary the molecule by changing the configuration. One accepts the molecule while the other releases the molecule.

What type of cell transport uses carrier proteins?

Carrier proteins allow for the movement of molecules across the membrane diffusion, active and passive transport.

Carrier proteins can carry molecules across the membrane by active transport or passive transport with the concentration gradient or against it respectively.

If the carrier proteins move molecules across the concentration gradient i.e. from a region of higher to lower concentration it is considered active transport. Active transport does not require the cell to expend energy to get the molecule across the membrane.

On the other hand, if the molecules are moved against the concentration gradient i.e. from a lower to a higher concentration region it is called passive transport. This type of transport requires energy to take place usually in the form of ATP(Adenosine Triphosphate).

Is a carrier protein an integral protein?

Yes, carrier proteins are integral proteins.

Integral membrane proteins refer to those proteins that are embedded in the lipid bilayer and span from the cell exterior to the cell interior.

Structures of polytopic transmembrane proteins (1) a single transmembrane α-helix (2)polytopic transmembrane α-helical protein (3) polytopic transmembrane β-sheet protein
Image: Wikipedia

Biologically speaking all membrane transporter proteins are classified as integral proteins. Since carrier proteins are also transporter proteins they also fall under this category.

Are channel and carrier proteins integral membrane proteins?

Yes, channel proteins and carrier proteins are biologically classified IMPs(Integral membrane proteins) that are also membrane transversing.

Channel proteins and carrier proteins are biologically classified as integral transmembrane proteins.

Image showing how differently Channel proteins and Carrier proteins work
Image: Wikipedia

Integral membrane proteins also consist of receptors and enzymes but they are not transmembrane. Only the two classes of transporter protein classes transverse the width of the lipid bilayer.

The transporter proteins are not only embedded in the lipid bilayer but also open up to connect the contents of the cell and its exterior. This is what classifies them as integral and transmembrane proteins.

Are all integral proteins carrier proteins?

No, all integral proteins are not carrier proteins.

Transporters like carrier proteins are classified as integral transmembrane proteins, i.e. they must transverse the width of the bilayer.

However, all integral membrane proteins are not transmembrane, only a fraction of them are. Integral membrane proteins also include channel proteins, enzymes, receptors and carrier proteins amongst them.

Hence not all integral membrane proteins are not carrier proteins but all carrier proteins are integral proteins.


Even though all carrier proteins are membrane proteins the vice versa is not. This is mainly because there are other types of membrane proteins as well.

Trisha Dey

I am Trisha Dey, a postgraduate in Bioinformatics. I pursued my graduate degree in Biochemistry. I love reading .I also have a passion for learning new languages. Let’s connect through linked in:

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