<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Understand the fluid mosaic model of cell membranes
  • Describe the functions of phospholipids, proteins, and carbohydrates in membranes
  • Discuss membrane fluidity

A cell’s plasma membrane defines the cell, outlines its borders, and determines the nature of its interaction with its environment (see [link] for a summary). Cells exclude some substances, take in others, and excrete still others, all in controlled quantities. The plasma membrane must be very flexible to allow certain cells, such as red blood cells and white blood cells, to change shape as they pass through narrow capillaries. These are the more obvious functions of a plasma membrane. In addition, the surface of the plasma membrane carries markers that allow cells to recognize one another, which is vital for tissue and organ formation during early development, and which later plays a role in the “self” versus “non-self” distinction of the immune response.

Among the most sophisticated functions of the plasma membrane is the ability to transmit signals by means of complex, integral proteins known as receptors. These proteins act both as receivers of extracellular inputs and as activators of intracellular processes. These membrane receptors provide extracellular attachment sites for effectors like hormones and growth factors, and they activate intracellular response cascades when their effectors are bound. Occasionally, receptors are hijacked by viruses (HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is one example) that use them to gain entry into cells, and at times, the genes encoding receptors become mutated, causing the process of signal transduction to malfunction with disastrous consequences.

Fluid mosaic model

The existence of the plasma membrane was identified in the 1890s, and its chemical components were identified in 1915. The principal components identified at that time were lipids and proteins. The first widely accepted model of the plasma membrane’s structure was proposed in 1935 by Hugh Davson and James Danielli; it was based on the “railroad track” appearance of the plasma membrane in early electron micrographs. They theorized that the structure of the plasma membrane resembles a sandwich, with protein being analogous to the bread, and lipids being analogous to the filling. In the 1950s, advances in microscopy, notably transmission electron microscopy (TEM), allowed researchers to see that the core of the plasma membrane consisted of a double, rather than a single, layer. A new model that better explains both the microscopic observations and the function of that plasma membrane was proposed by S.J. Singer and Garth L. Nicolson in 1972.

The explanation proposed by Singer and Nicolson is called the fluid mosaic model    . The model has evolved somewhat over time, but it still best accounts for the structure and functions of the plasma membrane as we now understand them. The fluid mosaic model describes the structure of the plasma membrane as a mosaic of components—including phospholipids, cholesterol, proteins, and carbohydrates—that gives the membrane a fluid character. Plasma membranes range from 5 to 10 nm in thickness. For comparison, human red blood cells, visible via light microscopy, are approximately 8 µm wide, or approximately 1,000 times wider than a plasma membrane. The membrane does look a bit like a sandwich ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

breathing in reptiles
sam Reply
which molecules binds to the active site of an enzyme
Ghulam Reply
human
Haggai
what is nutrients
Patrick Reply
nutrients is substance which body use in terms of need
Haggai
yes..
Abdullahi
can I join?
Osei
substance that provides nourishment essential for the maintenance of life and for growth.
umar
right same answer as you Umar
Namuli
please remind me
Namuli
Any material that provide essential components for cell metabolisms is nutrient
Mahmood
what are the types of skeleton
Tanyi Reply
endo skeleton and exo skeleton
Faith
or types of skeletons There is exo skeleton found in class insecta Exo skeleton found in phylum chordata and lastly hydrostatic skeleton found mainly in earth worms
Daniel
and hydrostatic skeleton
Godbless
what is life?
Jerson Reply
life is when any living thing breath or respirate.
Lucky
I want to join
Patrick
me too
Favour
me two
Monday
me too
Bengazy
me too
Maggie
I here
Yahaya
Does anybody knows another biology app that brings good understand
Lucky
give an example of a phylum where all members have open circulatory
Omoro Reply
anthropoda
Daniel
phylum Anthropoda
Daniel
how do u change the unit of temperature from degree celsius to degree Fahrenheit
Maggie
what are beneficial effects in industrial
Nnamani Reply
create employment
ibrahim
provide food
ibrahim
pollution
ibrahim
dirty the environment
ibrahim
pollution and lack of knowledge about how to manage waste
Alex
what is gametophyte
Ibrahim Reply
what is biology
Basiru Reply
Biology deals with the study of living organisms and their interactions with each other and the environment.
Quartey
biology simply means the study of living and non-livingthings.
Shamstar
what is the meaning of ubiquitous
Hamziyatu Reply
Under what topic is this question
fred
three branches of biology
Alexander Reply
what is the cell
Olajide Reply
what is life
Olajide
cell is the functional and structural unit of life
Shweta
life is a problem solving entity
Atanga
what is the characteristics of plant cell
Quaku
Describe the process that results in the formation of a tetrad.
Michael Reply
what is biology
Ndukwe Reply
biology is the study of life
Oghenemine
what is biology
Jimmy Reply
the study of life
Hamziyatu

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask