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J Lipid Res. 1985 Sep;26(9):1015-35.

Membrane lipid composition and cellular function.


Membrane fatty acid composition, phospholipid composition, and cholesterol content can be modified in many different kinds of intact mammalian cells. The modifications are extensive enough to alter membrane fluidity and affect a number of cellular functions, including carrier-mediated transport, the properties of certain membrane-bound enzymes, binding to the insulin and opiate receptors, phagocytosis, endocytosis, depolarization-dependent exocytosis, immunologic and chemotherapeutic cytotoxicity, prostaglandin production, and cell growth. The effects of lipid modification on cellular function are very complex. They often vary from one type of cell to another, and they do not exert a uniform effect on all processes in a single cell line. Therefore, it is not yet possible to make any generalizations or to predict how a given system will respond to a particular type of lipid modification. Many of the functional responses probably are caused directly by the membrane lipid structural changes, which affect either bulk lipid fluidity or specific lipid domains. The conformation or quaternary structures of certain transporters, receptors, and enzymes probably are sensitive to changes in the structure of their lipid microenvironment, leading to changes in activity. Prostaglandin production is modulated by the availability of substrate fatty acids stored in the membrane phospholipids, but the underlying chemical mechanism still involves a change in membrane lipid structure. While this is the most likely mechanism, the possibility that the membrane lipid compositional change is an independent event that occurs concurrently but is not causally related to the functional perturbations also must be considered.

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