Introduction

Cells and organisms are open systems capable of sustaining a continuous trafficking of material with the environment. The function termed 'excretion' includes all the processes of removing the waste products of cellular metabolism from the body. Three main pathways are involved: (1) the excretion through specialized structures such as kidneys; (2) the respiratory system; and (3) the gastrointestinal track. To increase the efficiency of catabolite removal and to avoid their toxic effects on the organism, massive water movements are generated at the level of the interfaces specialized for this function. Osmotic and/or hydrostatic gradients across the excreting epithelia are of fundamental importance for generating such water flows. Thus, excretion is strongly linked to the osmoregulation of body fluids and to the water and electrolytes balance of the organism. Since several metabolic wastes can exchange protons, excretion is also linked to the pH regulation.

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