Introduction to Biomembranes

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Biomembrane Transport[edit | edit source]

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A biomembrane is a structure presenting all cells being it the plasma membrane or internal membranes (e.g. endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus). All Membranes consist of three substances

  • Lipids
  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates (Glyco-Proteins, -lipids)

The ratio between lipid and proteins depends on the function of the cell, some examples of different cell membrane compositions are shown in the table below.

Membrane % By weight
Protein Lipid Carbohydrate
Myelin 18 79 3
Human erythtocyte 49 43 8
Mouse liver 44 52 4
Ameba 54 42 4
Chloroplast spinach lamellae 70 30 0
Halobacterium purple membrane 75 25 0
Mitochondrial inner membrane 76 24 0

Membranes as Lipid Bilayers[edit | edit source]

Example of a Lipid Bilayer

Membranes are made of a lipid by layer of phospholipids which are made up of a hydrophilic "polar" heads(water) and hydrophobic fatty acid tails (oil). Phospholipids will spontaneously form lipid bilayers in aqueous solution; tails aggregate and exclude water from a core, the structure is stabalised by tail-tail/ head-head interactions. The polar head region's charge is variable and fatty acid (R) chains vary in length from C12 to C22 as well as in their degree of unsaturation (number of double bonds).Each C=C bond produces a rigid kink in the the phospholipid tail. In 1972 Singer and Nicholson proposed the "Fluid Mosaic" model suggesting that the membrane itself is a two dimensional sea of mobile lipid in which proteins diffuse or 'float'.

Mechanisms by which substances cross the membrane[edit | edit source]

  • Diffusion
  • Osmosis (net water flow)
  • Transport (Passive or Active)