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An illustration of a phospholipid shows a hydrophilic head group composed of phosphate connected to a three-carbon glycerol molecule, and two hydrophobic tails composed of long hydrocarbon chains.
This phospholipid molecule is composed of a hydrophilic head and two hydrophobic tails. The hydrophilic head group consists of a phosphate-containing group attached to a glycerol molecule. The hydrophobic tails, each containing either a saturated or an unsaturated fatty acid, are long hydrocarbon chains.

This characteristic is vital to the structure of a plasma membrane because, in water, phospholipids tend to become arranged with their hydrophobic tails facing each other and their hydrophilic heads facing out. In this way, they form a lipid bilayer—a barrier composed of a double layer of phospholipids that separates the water and other materials on one side of the barrier from the water and other materials on the other side. In fact, phospholipids heated in an aqueous solution tend to spontaneously form small spheres or droplets (called micelles or liposomes), with their hydrophilic heads forming the exterior and their hydrophobic tails on the inside ( [link] ).

The image on the left shows a spherical lipid bilayer. The image on the right shows a smaller sphere that has a single lipid layer only. The image at the bottom shows a lipid bilayer sheet.
In an aqueous solution, phospholipids tend to arrange themselves with their polar heads facing outward and their hydrophobic tails facing inward. (credit: modification of work by Mariana Ruiz Villareal)

Proteins

Proteins make up the second major component of plasma membranes. Integral proteins (some specialized types are called integrins) are, as their name suggests, integrated completely into the membrane structure, and their hydrophobic membrane-spanning regions interact with the hydrophobic region of the the phospholipid bilayer ( [link] ). Single-pass integral membrane proteins usually have a hydrophobic transmembrane segment that consists of 20–25 amino acids. Some span only part of the membrane—associating with a single layer—while others stretch from one side of the membrane to the other, and are exposed on either side. Some complex proteins are composed of up to 12 segments of a single protein, which are extensively folded and embedded in the membrane ( [link] ). This type of protein has a hydrophilic region or regions, and one or several mildly hydrophobic regions. This arrangement of regions of the protein tends to orient the protein alongside the phospholipids, with the hydrophobic region of the protein adjacent to the tails of the phospholipids and the hydrophilic region or regions of the protein protruding from the membrane and in contact with the cytosol or extracellular fluid.

The left part of this illustration shows an integral membrane protein with a single alpha-helix that spans the membrane. The middle part shows a protein with several alpha-helices spanning the membrane. The right part shows a protein with two beta-sheets spanning the membrane.
Integral membranes proteins may have one or more alpha-helices that span the membrane (examples 1 and 2), or they may have beta-sheets that span the membrane (example 3). (credit: “Foobar”/Wikimedia Commons)

Peripheral proteins are found on the exterior and interior surfaces of membranes, attached either to integral proteins or to phospholipids. Peripheral proteins, along with integral proteins, may serve as enzymes, as structural attachments for the fibers of the cytoskeleton, or as part of the cell’s recognition sites. These are sometimes referred to as “cell-specific” proteins. The body recognizes its own proteins and attacks foreign proteins associated with invasive pathogens.

Questions & Answers

do you care asking you a question
Afolayan Reply
name the gas that diffuses into the plants leaves on a bright, sunny day
Tuhemwe Reply
explain why this gas diffuses into the plant's leaves
Tuhemwe
name two gases that diffuses out of the plant's leaves on a bright sunny day
Tuhemwe
what is ecosystem
Rondy Reply
why does a car move yet it is not a living thing?
Sserujja
this is because of the engine and fuel placed on
Gift
what is the reason of swelling due to fracture
Ejaz Reply
how do animals reproduce
Kelvin Reply
be specific because there are so many types of animals and how they reproduce are different
Sheillah
yeah
Chinwendu
what happens when you sneeze
Asuquo Reply
The sneeze center sends out a signal to tightly close your throat, eyes and mouth. Your chest muscles contract and compress your lungs while your throat muscles relax. All of that means air, saliva and mucus is forced out of your nose and mouth. AAAAAHHHH-CHOOOO.
Hassan
how are you
Ayouba
hy
Ejaz
hii
Ishitha
hello
mahesha
Hello
Madu
Am fine
Abavon
how far
Abavon
hello
Sheillah
with why
Sheillah
with what
Sheillah
I have a question plzz
Sheillah
what is globsl warming
Rondy
Global warming is the overall rise in temperature of the Earth itself which is caused by multiple factors. Such factors include: greenhouse gases, the burning of fossil fuels and other forms of human activity.
Maryam
It's overall effects are known as climate change.
Maryam
thanks
Rondy
good
Haider
No problem.
Maryam
Thank you.
Maryam
what is creatinine?
Haider
Creatinine is a waste product produced in the body during muscle metabolism. This waste product is expelled from the body through urine. Here is it's formula:  C4H7N3O
Maryam
Formula: C4H7N3O
Maryam
ok
Haider
ok
Stephen
Outline the process of cell in the body interms of it's function.
Aliruku Reply
what communication method used mainly by plants
Jerda Reply
what is biology
james Reply
Biology is the study of life
Omoloju
define nerve impulse
Karlin Reply
A nerve impulse is the way nerve cells (neurons) communicate with one another. Nerve impulsesare mostly electrical signals along the dendrites to produce a nerve impulse or action potential. The action potential is the result of ions moving in and out of the cell.
Sam
What is the Molecular Biology?
Service Reply
The branch of biology that deals with the structure and function of the macromolecules (e.g. proteins and nucleic acids) essential to life.
Sam
what is botany
Sillah
Description Description Botany, also called plant science, plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field.
Sam
what is the difference between mitosis and meiosis?
Fatima Reply
what is an element
Saidu Reply
Element is any one of the simplest chemical substances that cannot be decomposed in a chemical reaction.
Lucky
an element is a substance that cannot be broken down into any other substance
Akosua
explain why only one sperm fertilisers the ovum
Frazzy Reply
its because other sperms are destroyed on the way
Nasib
A test tube is full of a colourless gas that puts a lighted wooden splint.what gas is this?
Jerda
what is cell
Dau Reply
Cell is the smallest unit of life
Yodit
cell refers of the basic, structural and function unit of an organism
jacob
smallest functional unit of an organism
Nasib
is the smallest basic unit of life
Tuhemwe
Is a basic unit of life
James
It's the basic, structural and functional unit of life/living organisms
Ese

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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