Cell Biology/Membranes

Parts of the cell The cell membrane is very important, because it works as a selective filter that allows only certain things to come inside or go outside the cell, it act as a body guard for our body.It can maintain a stable and healthy environment for cell in order to keep people healthy.

plant cell membranes are rigid walls, and animal cell membranes are lipid bilayers.

Plasma membrane bilayer

The phospholipid bilayer which the cell membrane is an example of, is composed of various cholesterol, phospholipids, glycolipids, blagoscony and proteins. Below is an example of a simple phospholipid bilayer.

Small bilayer.png

The smaller molecules shown between the phospholipids are Cholesterol molecules. They help to provide rigidity or stability to the membrane. The two main components of phospholipids are shown in these figures by blue circles representing the hydrophilic head groups and by long thin lines representing the hydrophobic fatty acid tails.

Both the interior of the cell and the area surrounding the cell is made up of water or similar aqueous solution. Consequently, phospholipids orient themselves with respect to the water and with each other so that the hydrophilic ("water loving") head groups are grouped together and face the water, and the hydrophobic ("water fearing") tails turn away from the water and toward each other. This self-organization of phospholipids results in one of just a few easily recognizable structures. Cell membranes are constructed of a phospholipid bilayer as shown above.

Smaller structures can also form, known as 'micelles' in which there is no inner layer of phospholipid. Instead, the interior of a micell is wholly hydrophobic, filled with the fatty acid chains of the phospholipids and any other hydrophobic molecule they enclose. Micelles are not so important for the understanding of cellular structure, but are useful for demonstrating the principles of hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity, and for contrasting with lipid bilayers.

At least 10 different types of lipids are commonly found in cell membranes. Each type of cell or organelle will have a different percentage of each lipid, protein and carbohydrate. The main types of lipids are:

  • Cholesterol
  • Glycolipids
  • Phosphatidylcholine
  • Sphingomyelin
  • Phosphatidylethnolamine
  • Phosphatydilinositol
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Phosphatidylglycerol
  • Diphosphatidylglycerol (Cardiolipin)
  • Phosphatidic acid

The Cell Membrane is AsymmetricEdit

The cell membrane tends to have different composition on one side of the membrane than on the other side of the membrane. The differences can be caused by the different ratios or types of amphipathic lipid-based molecules, the different positioning of the proteins (facing in or facing out), or the fixed orientations of proteins spanning the membrane. Additionally, there are different enzymatic activities in the outer and inner membrane surfaces.

The reason the cell membrane is asymmetric is because when the proteins are synthesized by the preexisting membranes, they are inserted into the membrane in an asymmetric manner. The asymmetry of the cell membrane allows the membrane to be rigid and allows the cell to have a different intracellular environment from the existing extracellular environment. Additionally, the cell membrane's phospholipids are distributed asymmetrically across the lipid bilayer, in a phenomenon called membrane phospholipid asymmetry. There are three mechanisms for transmembrane movement of phospholipids: 1) spontaneous diffusion, 2) facilitated diffusion, 3) ATP-dependent active translocation.

The spontaneous diffusion is a form of passive transport. Because passive transport does not require energy to transport non-polar substances through the membrane, this can happen spontaneously. Facilitated diffusion, like spontaneous diffusion, is a form of passive transport. The molecules or ions in this diffusion pass through the membrane by using specific transmembrane transport proteins.

Membrane transport of small molecules Because animal membrane proteins are lipid bilayer which are inner hydrophobic, this character prohibits polar molecules. Transport proteins can provide help for this situation. It can transport polar molecules across the membrane. There are several types of membrane transport proteins. They are uniports and cotransport. Uniports can move solutes from one side to another, change the position of the proteins. Cotransport systems can simultaneously sending two solutes across the lipid bilayer. Solutes are sent in the same direction or opposite directions Transport proteins does not need to be acts natural direction.


Membrane Transport of Macromolecules Membrane transport of Macromolecules can divide into two parts, they are exocytosis and endocytosis. In exocytosis, the contents of vesicles are released when the vesicle fuses with the cell membrane. There are five steps involved, which are vesicle trafficking, vesicke tethering, vesicle docking, vesicle priming and vesicle fusion. In endocytosis the membrane depresses and pinches off, enclosing the molecule. In receptor-mediated endocytosis, coated pits and vesicles bind to specific receptors on the cell surface, allowing the cell to select what molecules to take and what to reject.

Important aspects of MembranesEdit

  1. Phospholipids
  2. Cholesterol
  3. Semi-permeability and osmosis
  4. Proteins and channels
  5. Hydrophobicity
  6. Self-assembly
Last modified on 2 December 2013, at 11:50