The fluid mosaic model of the structure of cell membranes

Science
S J Singer, G L Nicolson

Abstract

A fluid mosaic model is presented for the gross organization and structure of the proteins and lipids of biological membranes. The model is consistent with the restrictions imposed by thermodynamics. In this model, the proteins that are integral to the membrane are a heterogeneous set of globular molecules, each arranged in an amphipathic structure, that is, with the ionic and highly polar groups protruding from the membrane into the aqueous phase, and the nonpolar groups largely buried in the hydrophobic interior of the membrane. These globular molecules are partially embedded in a matrix of phospholipid. The bulk of the phospholipid is organized as a discontinuous, fluid bilayer, although a small fraction of the lipid may interact specifically with the membrane proteins. The fluid mosaic structure is therefore formally analogous to a two-dimensional oriented solution of integral proteins (or lipoproteins) in the viscous phospholipid bilayer solvent. Recent experiments with a wide variety of techniqes and several different membrane systems are described, all of which abet consistent with, and add much detail to, the fluid mosaic model. It therefore seems appropriate to suggest possible mechanisms for various membrane functions...Continue Reading

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