Given the predominant lipid nature of biological membranes many types of molecules are restricted in their ability to diffuse across a membrane. This is especially true for charged ions, water and hydrophilic compounds. The barrier to membrane translocation is overcome by the presence of specialized channels and transporters. Although channels and transporters are required to move many types of molecules and compounds across membranes, some substances can pass through from one side of a membrane to the other through a process of diffusion. Diffusion of gases such as O 2 , CO 2 , NO, and CO occurs at a rate that is solely dependent upon concentration gradients. Lipophilic molecules will also diffuse across membranes at a rate that is directly proportional to the solubility of the compound in the membrane. Although water can diffuse across biological membranes, the physiological need for rapid equilibrium across plasma membranes has led to the evolution of a family of water transporting channels that are called aquaporins (see section below).
Cells of the zona fasciculata and zona reticularis lack aldosterone synthase (CYP11B2) that converts corticosterone to aldosterone, and thus these tissues produce only the weak mineralocorticoid corticosterone. However, both these zones do contain the CYP17A1 missing in zona glomerulosa and thus produce the major glucocorticoid, cortisol. Zona fasciculata and zona reticularis cells also contain CYP17A1, whose 17,20-lyase activity is responsible for producing the androgens, dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione. Thus, fasciculata and reticularis cells can make corticosteroids and the adrenal androgens, but not aldosterone.