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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

simple definition for respiratory system
Gift Reply
Respiratory system is a network of organs and tissues that helps you to breathe or help in getting the rids of oxygen and discharge of carbon dioxide in the body.
Ruhiyatu
how is a aerenchyma tissue adapted to its function
fatuma Reply
what does DNA mean
innocent Reply
dioxiribo nucleic acid
Lekan
what is a zygote
Victor Reply
zygote is developed or fertilized egg cell
Lekan
what is the difference between cell wall and cell membrane
Ruhiyatu Reply
cell wall is found in plant while cell membrane is found in animal cell
Lekan
please this is the main answer to that question okay Cell wall gives shape and support to the cell whiles Cell membrane support the movement of substances into and out of the cell. This question is very tricky that's why I asked.
Ruhiyatu
how cell I form
Elijah Reply
what difference between animal cell and plant cell
Lazarus Reply
what is animal call
Rita
Animal cell does not have a cell wall but plant cell have a cell wall
Ruhiyatu
plant have cell Wall well animal have not cell wall
Yula
what is fertilization?
Muhamed Reply
Fertilization is the fusion of male sex cell and female sex cell to form a zygote.
Ruhiyatu
What kind of nutrients is composed of plants
Annie Reply
phosphorus,potassium,nitrogen
Kritika
NPK
Ruhiyatu
what is hormones
Igwe Reply
hormon is the chemical messanger
Sneha
Genes can make someone dull?
Taperah
21ecological instrument and their diagrams
Ayomide Reply
cell biology
Muhamed
I am sorry
onuoha
for wat
ezeadaugo
no reason
KP
nothing but speculate
KP
Sorry without reason is nothing but speculate
Leilah
what are the kidney disease
Immaculate Reply
kidney stones
Gracelyne
it is a disease that affects the kidney
Miriam
what are some lung diseases
Gracelyne
kidney cancer
Victor
what is the other way of treating kidney failure
Mirriam
After having kidney transplant or dialysis
Evelyn
what is micro-organism
Jackson Reply
what is the hypothesis
Jackson
hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon
Miriam
hypothesis is raw materials
KP
what is biology
KP
biology is the study of living things and their interaction with their environment
Miriam
what is zyogot?
Muhamed
what is fertilization?
Muhamed
zygote is an unfertilized eggs
KP
fertilization refers to the fusion of a sperm and ovum
KP
organs that can't be seen physically
Victor
what does mean stigma
Amira Reply
the stigma receives pollen grains during pollination
Ruhiyatu
what is the full of the MOST dangerous disease in the world where one stops sleeping and just dies :Hint ; FFI
God Reply
fatal familial insomnia which affects the thalamus
Miriam
there are other dangerous diseases like CAD i.e coronary artery disease
Miriam

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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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