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Curr Top Membr. 2015;75:25-57. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctm.2015.03.009. Epub 2015 Apr 17.

Giant plasma membrane vesicles: models for understanding membrane organization.

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Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston - Medical School, Houston, TX, USA.


The organization of eukaryotic membranes into functional domains continues to fascinate and puzzle cell biologists and biophysicists. The lipid raft hypothesis proposes that collective lipid interactions compartmentalize the membrane into coexisting liquid domains that are central to membrane physiology. This hypothesis has proven controversial because such structures cannot be directly visualized in live cells by light microscopy. The recent observations of liquid-liquid phase separation in biological membranes are an important validation of the raft hypothesis and enable application of the experimental toolbox of membrane physics to a biologically complex phase-separated membrane. This review addresses the role of giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs) in refining the raft hypothesis and expands on the application of GPMVs as an experimental model to answer some of key outstanding problems in membrane biology.


GPMV; Microdomain; Model membrane; Partitioning; Phase separation; Plasma membrane; Plasma membrane vesicle; Raft

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