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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011 Oct 1;3(10):a004697. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a004697.

Membrane organization and lipid rafts.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, 01307 Dresden, Germany.


Cell membranes are composed of a lipid bilayer, containing proteins that span the bilayer and/or interact with the lipids on either side of the two leaflets. Although recent advances in lipid analytics show that membranes in eukaryotic cells contain hundreds of different lipid species, the function of this lipid diversity remains enigmatic. The basic structure of cell membranes is the lipid bilayer, composed of two apposing leaflets, forming a two-dimensional liquid with fascinating properties designed to perform the functions cells require. To coordinate these functions, the bilayer has evolved the propensity to segregate its constituents laterally. This capability is based on dynamic liquid-liquid immiscibility and underlies the raft concept of membrane subcompartmentalization. This principle combines the potential for sphingolipid-cholesterol self-assembly with protein specificity to focus and regulate membrane bioactivity. Here we will review the emerging principles of membrane architecture with special emphasis on lipid organization and domain formation.

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