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Front Plant Sci. 2013 Dec 12;4:503. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00503.

Imaging lipid domains in cell membranes: the advent of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy.

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Department of Physics and Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, King's College London London, UK.
Centre for Vascular Research and Australian Centre for Nanomedicine, University of New South Wales Sydney, NSW, Australia.


The lipid bilayer of model membranes, liposomes reconstituted from cell lipids, and plasma membrane vesicles and spheres can separate into two distinct liquid phases to yield lipid domains with liquid-ordered and liquid-disordered properties. These observations are the basis of the lipid raft hypothesis that postulates the existence of cholesterol-enriched ordered-phase lipid domains in cell membranes that could regulate protein mobility, localization and interaction. Here we review the evidence that nano-scaled lipid complexes and meso-scaled lipid domains exist in cell membranes and how new fluorescence microscopy techniques that overcome the diffraction limit provide new insights into lipid organization in cell membranes.


cell membranes; fluorescence; lipid rafts; membrane microdomains; super-resolution

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