<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the molecular components that make up the cell membrane
  • Explain the major features and properties of the cell membrane
  • Differentiate between materials that can and cannot diffuse through the lipid bilayer
  • Compare and contrast different types of passive transport with active transport, providing examples of each

Despite differences in structure and function, all living cells in multicellular organisms have a surrounding cell membrane. As the outer layer of your skin separates your body from its environment, the cell membrane (also known as the plasma membrane) separates the inner contents of a cell from its exterior environment. This cell membrane provides a protective barrier around the cell and regulates which materials can pass in or out.

Structure and composition of the cell membrane

The cell membrane    is an extremely pliable structure composed primarily of back-to-back phospholipids (a “bilayer”). Cholesterol is also present, which contributes to the fluidity of the membrane, and there are various proteins embedded within the membrane that have a variety of functions.

A single phospholipid molecule has a phosphate group on one end, called the “head,” and two side-by-side chains of fatty acids that make up the lipid tails ( [link] ). The phosphate group is negatively charged, making the head polar and hydrophilic—or “water loving.” A hydrophilic    molecule (or region of a molecule) is one that is attracted to water. The phosphate heads are thus attracted to the water molecules of both the extracellular and intracellular environments. The lipid tails, on the other hand, are uncharged, or nonpolar, and are hydrophobic—or “water fearing.” A hydrophobic    molecule (or region of a molecule) repels and is repelled by water. Some lipid tails consist of saturated fatty acids and some contain unsaturated fatty acids. This combination adds to the fluidity of the tails that are constantly in motion. Phospholipids are thus amphipathic molecules. An amphipathic    molecule is one that contains both a hydrophilic and a hydrophobic region. In fact, soap works to remove oil and grease stains because it has amphipathic properties. The hydrophilic portion can dissolve in water while the hydrophobic portion can trap grease in micelles that then can be washed away.

Phospholipid structure

This diagram shows the structure of a phospholipid. The hydrophilic head group is shown as a pink sphere and the two tails are shown as yellow rectangles.
A phospholipid molecule consists of a polar phosphate “head,” which is hydrophilic and a non-polar lipid “tail,” which is hydrophobic. Unsaturated fatty acids result in kinks in the hydrophobic tails.

The cell membrane consists of two adjacent layers of phospholipids. The lipid tails of one layer face the lipid tails of the other layer, meeting at the interface of the two layers. The phospholipid heads face outward, one layer exposed to the interior of the cell and one layer exposed to the exterior ( [link] ). Because the phosphate groups are polar and hydrophilic, they are attracted to water in the intracellular fluid. Intracellular fluid (ICF) is the fluid interior of the cell. The phosphate groups are also attracted to the extracellular fluid. Extracellular fluid (ECF) is the fluid environment outside the enclosure of the cell membrane. Interstitial fluid (IF) is the term given to extracellular fluid not contained within blood vessels. Because the lipid tails are hydrophobic, they meet in the inner region of the membrane, excluding watery intracellular and extracellular fluid from this space. The cell membrane has many proteins, as well as other lipids (such as cholesterol), that are associated with the phospholipid bilayer. An important feature of the membrane is that it remains fluid; the lipids and proteins in the cell membrane are not rigidly locked in place.

Questions & Answers

Card 5 / 12: For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?
Gelowe Reply
what are regular shaped cells with granules in the cytoplasam
Kabita Reply
I need sylubuss of clinical officers book
Omary Reply
cholesterol normal value is
less than 200mg/dl
100 to159mg/dL
Early this wk. I had some "A & P" questions & answers unfortunately didn't save them, Is there any way I can have them back ,so as 2 save them?. Thnx.
what are the functions of the female reproductive system
Lister Reply
it produces the female egg necessary for reproduction, called the Ova or Oocytes. The system is designed to transport the Ova to the site of fertilization.
Female reproductive system was mainly functioned to produce ova(ovum) (female eggs) Into which will be fertilized by male gamete to produce zygote
absolutely right
wa qalad nimco rage iska hubi
waxwalba ka fikirbay ubaahantahay
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacdat
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacday
wxayaabaha qaarkood waaa in aan u feejignaano
asc if I try female reproductive system has two function the first is to produce egg cell and the second is to protact and nourish the offspring until birth
what is stercobilinogen
Hancerich Reply
fecal urobilinogen. Created by bacteria in the gut. a chemical that gives feces brown color.
next question pls.
The rate of diffusion increases if the
What's the answer?
it's a breaking down of haemoglobin and it's a chemical made by bacteria
Thnx Dev Raj.
yup so any more
yes I sure do need more "Questions" & "Answers". I'm learning whole lot. Thnx.
what is the greatest muscle of the body
Lungu Reply
gluteus maximus
pls!!! more "A&P" questions & answers. Thnx.
Gluteus maximus
Describe anatomy of cardiovascular system?
cardiovascular system is a group of organs coming together to perform the circulation of blood. The organs invoked are the heart and the blood vessels with blood being the tissue. The heart is a pump and it pumps oxygenated blood through the systemic circuit and deoxygenated blood through the pulmon
pulmonary circuit.
more A&P questions pls. Thnx.
If an ANOVA yields a significant F value, you could rely on ________ to test significant differences between group means.
Dane Reply
what's ANOVA
analysis of variance
plz what you mean with "ANOVA" first
anova means analysis of variance, a statistical method in which the variation in a set of observations is divided into distinct components.
M value ot test
What does it mean by M value ot test?
formation of red blood cells
Biketi Reply
explain why... lower back pain in ovarian cancer
Srijoni Reply
we says that protoplasm is the living part of us How?
Muzamil Reply
is the leaving part of our cellular structure.
it is the leaving part of our blood cellular structure also
what is receptor?
Preity Reply
an organ or cell able to respond to light, heat, or other external stimulus and transmit a signal to a sensory nerve.
Has anyone taken the first exam?
hey what is the process after your food is swallowed? how long does it take to get to the stomache until it is released as waste?
Fednise Reply
that is such a broad question. as you begin to swallow its various doses down the alimentary canal that brings the food into your stomach.then depending on whether it's a protein carbohydrate fat that dictates what function takes place in your stomach. these are all steps of digestion.
typo sorry it's peristalsis , wave-like projections that push food down your alimentary canal etc. digestion starts in your mouth ends in your large intestines (colon anus)
some of the many processes of digestion include hydrolysis dehydration synthesis denaturation of proteins etc. you have to be more specific.
there's many different contributing factors the how long it takes food to convert into waste. remember fats, triglycerides proteins and carbohydrates all breakdown two different monomers and structures. you should be looking up metabolic processes.
depending how much fiber you have in your diet dictates how much water is brought to your intestines that has to do with excretion whether fiber is insoluble or soluble. this is an anatomy and physiology app. to simply say the stomach will empty its contents in 2 to 3 hours would do you a disservice
can the study of anatomy relate to medical technologies
Lean Reply
how can I understand micro biology and anatomy better.
someone to help me understand glycogeneogenesis
what are the major branches of the aorta?
look youtube video

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?