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Front Cell Dev Biol. 2016 Sep 29;4:106. eCollection 2016.

There Is No Simple Model of the Plasma Membrane Organization.

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Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Central Laser Facility, Research Complex at Harwell Harwell, UK.
Institute of Applied Physics, Technische Universität Wien Wien, Austria.
MRC Human Immunology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford Headley Way, UK.
Department of Biophysical Chemistry, J.Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry, Czech Academy of Sciences Prague, Czech Republic.


Ever since technologies enabled the characterization of eukaryotic plasma membranes, heterogeneities in the distributions of its constituents were observed. Over the years this led to the proposal of various models describing the plasma membrane organization such as lipid shells, picket-and-fences, lipid rafts, or protein islands, as addressed in numerous publications and reviews. Instead of emphasizing on one model we in this review give a brief overview over current models and highlight how current experimental work in one or the other way do not support the existence of a single overarching model. Instead, we highlight the vast variety of membrane properties and components, their influences and impacts. We believe that highlighting such controversial discoveries will stimulate unbiased research on plasma membrane organization and functionality, leading to a better understanding of this essential cellular structure.


heterogenous distribution; membrane organization models; membrane physical properties; nanodomains; plasma membrane

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