The Plasma Membrane of a cell is composed of a Lipid Bilayer with Proteins embedded in it. The hydrophobic region of the lipid bilayer core excludes water, whereas the Hydrophilic regions both inside and outside of the cell allow water to be drawn into the structure through osmosis. In addition, there are various types of Protein structures associated with the Membrane, including integral Proteins, which are completely embedded in the lipid bilayer, and peripheral Proteins, which attach to the Membrane through their terminus region.
The cell's Plasma Membrane is composed primarily of lipids arranged into a lipid bilayer structure. Cholesterol is one component that contributes towards increasing the fluidity of the Membrane, as well as preventing the formation of lipid rafts which can compartmentalize the cell and restrict communication between different parts of the Membrane. The lipid bilayer is a highly stable structure that is resistant to changes in pH or temperature.
The Proteins embedded in the Plasma Membrane play a variety of roles in the cell, including providing structural support for the Membrane to form a three-dimensional shape. In eukaryotic cells, Proteins are also involved in cellular signalling cascades involving hormones and neurotransmitters, which affect other molecules associated with the lipid bilayer structure.
The peripheral Proteins are attached to the lipid bilayer through their terminus region and can be found on the outside or inside of the cell. They play a variety of roles in the cell, including acting as receptors for signaling molecules, transporting ions or molecules across the Membrane, and participating in Protein-Protein interactions.
The integral Proteins are completely embedded in the lipid bilayer structure and are generally classified into two categories: alpha-helical or beta-barrel structures. The integral Proteins can be composed of either hydrophobic amino acids, which allows them to reside in the lipid bilayer core structure, or can contain both hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions in order to allow insertion into the Membrane. It is important to note that the Proteins embedded in the Plasma Membrane are not static and can move around within the lipid bilayer in a process known as lateral diffusion.
The Plasma Membrane
The Plasma Membrane is also known as the cell Membrane. It is a Membrane found in all living cells, and it demarcates between the inner part of the cell and the outer part. In the case of plant cells, a cell wall is observed before the Plasma Membrane in the exterior part of the plant cells. The same is the case for some bacterial cells as well. The Plasma Membrane is mainly composed of a layer of lipid molecules. This layer is semipermeable and is responsible for the regulation and transportation of materials. Also, the movement of molecules, both large and small, in and out of the cell is controlled by the Plasma Membrane.
Components of Plasma Membrane
When asked what is the composition of the Plasma Membrane the composition can be divided into lipids and Proteins. The main constituents that form the composition of the Plasma Membrane are:
This forms the chemical composition of the Plasma Membrane. These are lipid molecules with the phosphorus head groups forming the main fabric of the Membrane
They occur on the outer or inner surface of the phospholipid bilayer, not in the middle
The hydrophobic tails of the phospholipid bilayer consist of these molecules.
Usually found on the outside of the Membrane, which also forms glycoProteins and glycolipids
They are embedded inside or in-between the bilipid layer.
Plasma Membrane Structure and Function
The Plasma Membrane is fluid in nature and, as mentioned, is made up of Proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. It does not allow the ions and other water-soluble molecules to pass through. Whenever required, they can only pass through with the help of carriers or through the transMembrane channels and transMembrane pumps. The Proteins present in the Membrane are also responsible for creating and maintaining a potential difference and gradient. Disease like cystic fibrosis occurs due to defects in this function of the Membrane. The structural composition ratio includes lipids making up 20% - 80% of the Plasma Membrane-based upon where it is present.
When asked the Plasma Membrane is made up of these two components, the answer is the lipids and the Proteins. The Plasma Membrane is composed of a phospholipid bilayer, i.e. two layers set up back-to-back. When asked what is the chemical composition of the Plasma Membrane the general answer is the phospholipid bilayer because the phospholipids, as described above, have one head and two tails where the head is polar and hydrophilic. Tails, on the other hand, are nonpolar and hydrophobic, and hence they form the interior portion of the Membrane. There are also Proteins embedded in the Membrane.
The Functions of the Plasma Membrane in Points are Given Below
The Proteins that are embedded in the Membrane perform specialized functions such as cell-cell recognition and the transport of molecules selectively.
It provides protection to the cell along with a fixed environment in the interior of the cell. It is responsible for performing different functions.
In the case of white and red blood cells, it is flexible as it aids in the movement through the blood capillaries.
In addition, it also holds the cytoskeletal structure that provides shape to a cell and associates with the extracellular matrix and other cells to form a tissue.
The Plasma Membrane is the primarily responsible component for interacting with adjacent cells.
The Membrane also helps the Proteins to monitor and maintain the chemical climate inside the cell and also provides aids in shifting the molecules in the Membrane.
The Fluid Mosaic Model of the Plasma Membrane
When asked to describe the structure of the Plasma Membrane, the structure is usually provided by the fluid mosaic model. This is because the structure of the Plasma Membrane is best represented through the fluid mosaic model as a collection of cholesterol, carbohydrates, proteins, and phospholipids. It was first proposed by Garth L. Nicolson and S.J. Singer. This model best explains the structure of the Plasma Membrane. The model depicts the Plasma Membrane structure as a mosaic of various components such as Proteins, cholesterol, phospholipids, and carbohydrates, and it also includes the fluid character of the Membrane.
It is approximately 5nm - 10 nm thick. The components of the Plasma Membrane, i.e., carbohydrates, lipids, and Proteins, differ from cell to cell. For example, the inner membrane of the mitochondria consists of 24% lipid and 76% Protein; in myelin, it is 76% lipid and 18% Protein.
The main fabric of this Membrane consists of phospholipid molecules that are amphiphilic, i.e. both hydrophobic and hydrophilic. The hydrophilic regions of the lipid molecules are in touch with the outside and inside environment of the cell. The hydrophobic molecules, on the other hand, are nonpolar in nature and are present in the middle. One phospholipid molecule comprises a three-carbon glycerol backbone along with 2 fatty acid molecules associated with carbons 1 and 2 and one phosphate-containing group connected to the third carbon.
In this structure, the head, which is a phosphate-containing group, possesses a negative charge while the tail, a region containing fatty acids, does not contain any charge. They usually interact with the nonpolar molecules in a chemical reaction but do not typically interact with the polar molecules.
When introduced to the water, the hydrophobic molecules show a tendency to form a cluster. The hydrophilic areas, unlike the hydrophobic ones, have the tendency to form hydrogen bonds with water and with other charged molecules inside and outside the cell. Therefore, the Membrane surface present on the exterior and interior of cells is hydrophilic, whereas the middle layer does not have any interaction with water. Hence, phospholipids form a lipid bilayer cell Membrane and separate the fluid present inside the cell from the fluid present in the exterior of the cell.
The second major component is the Proteins present in the Plasma Membrane. Integral Proteins or known as integrins integrate completely into the Membrane. Typically, single-pass integrins have a hydrophobic transmembrane portion which consists of 20-25 amino acids. Few of these pass through only a portion of the Membrane being linked with one layer, whereas others span from one side of the Membrane to another side.
Some complex Proteins contain 12 segments of one Protein in a highly convoluted form while being implanted into the Membrane. Such types of Proteins contain a hydrophilic region along with one or more hydrophobic areas. Owing to this nature, they typically align along with the phospholipids.
The third most important component of the Membrane is carbohydrates. Generally found outside the cells, they are attached to either the lipids or Proteins forming glycolipids or glycoProteins, respectively. When present on the exterior surface of the cells, these carbohydrates and their components of both glycolipids and glycoProteins together are known as glycocalyx, which is extremely hydrophilic in nature and thus attracts huge quantities of water towards the cell surface. This helps the cell to be in constant interaction with its fluid-like environment and also in the ability of the cell to acquire any substance dissolved in water.