Cell membrane

From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

The cell membrane, sometimes referred to as the plasma membrane, acts as a barrier and gatekeeper for the cell. Its primary function is to encase the cell's contents and regulate the movement of substances in and out of the cell.

Cell membrane detailed diagram

Structure[edit | edit source]

The cell membrane is primarily composed of a double layer of phospholipids called the lipid bilayer. Embedded within this bilayer are various proteins that serve multiple functions, from providing structural support to facilitating communication and transport.

  • Lipid Bilayer: This structure consists of two adjacent sheets of phospholipids, with the hydrophilic (water-attracting) "heads" facing outwards and the hydrophobic (water-repelling) "tails" facing inwards. This arrangement ensures that the cell membrane remains impermeable to many substances while allowing others to pass through.
  • Membrane Proteins: These are proteins that are either partially or wholly embedded in the lipid bilayer. They play crucial roles in transport, signaling, and maintaining the cell's structural integrity.

Function[edit | edit source]

The cell membrane's primary function is to protect the cell from its surroundings and regulate the exchange of substances.

  • Selective Permeability: The cell membrane is selective about what it allows to pass through. While some molecules can freely pass across, others require specific transport proteins.
  • Signal Transduction: The membrane has receptors that can recognize and respond to chemical signals, thus facilitating cell-to-cell communication.
  • Cell Adhesion: Membrane proteins help cells adhere to other cells or to extracellular matrices, critical for tissue formation and stability.

Transport Mechanisms[edit | edit source]

The cell membrane controls the movement of substances using various mechanisms:

  • Passive Transport: Involves movement of substances down a concentration gradient without the use of energy. Examples include osmosis and diffusion.
  • Active Transport: Requires energy, usually in the form of ATP, to move substances against a concentration gradient. This is facilitated by pump proteins.
  • Endocytosis and Exocytosis: Processes by which the cell ingests or expels large particles or volumes of fluid, respectively.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The cell membrane is not just a passive barrier but a dynamic structure that plays an active role in various cellular processes. By selectively controlling what enters and leaves the cell, it maintains the cell's homeostasis and ensures its survival.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Cell membrane Resources


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD