By LadyofHats Mariana Ruiz, traduction Pilar Saenz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
They form the structure of the lipid bilayer. They include:
- Phospholipids. Structural function. They are the fundamental components of the plasma membrane. They provide great fluidity to the membrane. They are arranged in a bilayer. Due to their amphipathic nature, on both sides they present a hydrophilic zone, the polar heads (glycerin or glycerol in phosphoglycerides), and a hydrophobic zone (fatty acids), which form the apolar tail, which is oriented towards the interior of the layer.
By Bensaccount [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Glycolipids. They have an amphipathic character. They are involved in recognition and signaling processes between cells. They are very similar to phospholipids, but contain oligosaccharides. In animal cells they are usually derived from sphingolipids, while in plant and prokaryotic cells, glycolipids are derived from phosphoglycerides. They only appear on the outer side of the plasma membrane.
- Sterols (among which is cholesterol) .It makes the membrane lose flexibility and permeability, making the bilayer more stable . Sterols are present in the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells, being more abundant in animal cells than in plant cells .
The lipids are not arranged in the same way in each of the two layers, so it has an asymmetrical arrangement .
As we have already said, the membrane is not a static structure, but the phospholipids have a certain movement, which gives the membrane fluidity.
The movements that lipids can perform are:
- Rotational: the phospholipid rotates around its major axis. It is very frequent and largely responsible for the other two movements.
- Lateral diffusion: it is the most frequent movement, the phospholipids can move laterally within the bilayer.
- Flip-flop: flipase enzymes allow one lipid molecule to move to the other monolayer. It is the least frequent movement, because it is very unfavorable energetically.
The main factors that determine the fluidity of the plasma membrane are:
- Temperature: the higher the temperature, the greater the fluidity in the membrane.
- Nature of lipids: the presence of unsaturated and short-chain fatty acids makes the membrane more fluid.
- Cholesterol. The presence of cholesterol reduces the mobility of phospholipids, thereby reducing the fluidity and permeability of the membrane.
They provide the membrane with its specific functions and are characteristic of each species. Like lipids, they also have lateral diffusion movements, which gives the membrane greater fluidity. Most proteins are globular in structure. There are two kinds:
- Peripheral or extrinsic. They are found on one side or the other of the lipid bilayer, loosely linked by non-covalent bonds. They are soluble.
- Integral or intrinsic. Embedded in the lipid bilayer, they cross the membrane one or more times, poking out on one or both sides (transmembrane proteins); or by means of covalent bonds with a lipid or a carbohydrate of the membrane. Isolating it requires the rupture of the bilayer.
Membrane proteins are involved in the exchange of substances .
Carbohydrates constitute the glucocalyx, a secretion membrane in animal cells made up of two layers: one, next to the plasma membrane with an amorphous texture, and the other, external, with a fibrous appearance and variable thickness.
Each face of the plasma membrane has a different chemical composition, which is why it is said that the membranes are asymmetric, being able to distinguish the inner and outer face of the membrane by its composition.
Chemical composition of the plasma membrane :
- Arranged in bilayer for its amphipathic character.
- Fundamental component of the membrane.
- Recognition of signals between cells.
- They only appear on the outer side of the plasma membrane.
- It gives stability to the lipid bilayer.
- Two types:
- Peripheral or extrinsic.
- Integral or intrinsic.
- They are involved in the exchange of substances.
- Two types:
- On the outer side of the plasma membrane.
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