Illustration of a Eukaryotic cell membrane
Cross-sectional view of the structures that can be formed by phospholipids in an aqueous solution
This fluid lipid bilayer cross section is made up entirely of phosphatidylcholine.
Comparison of Eukaryotes vs. Prokaryotes
A fluid membrane model of the phospholipid bilayer.
The three main structures phospholipids form in solution; the liposome (a closed bilayer), the micelle and the bilayer.
Examples of the major membrane phospholipids and glycolipids: phosphatidylcholine (PtdCho), phosphatidylethanolamine (PtdEtn), phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns), phosphatidylserine (PtdSer).
Schematic cross sectional profile of a typical lipid bilayer. There are three distinct regions: the fully hydrated headgroups, the fully dehydrated alkane core and a short intermediate region with partial hydration. Although the head groups are neutral, they have significant dipole moments that influence the molecular arrangement.
A detailed diagram of the cell membrane
TEM image of a bacterium. The furry appearance on the outside is due to a coat of long-chain sugars attached to the cell membrane. This coating helps trap water to prevent the bacterium from becoming dehydrated.
Illustration depicting cellular diffusion
Diagram showing the effect of unsaturated lipids on a bilayer. The lipids with an unsaturated tail (blue) disrupt the packing of those with only saturated tails (black). The resulting bilayer has more free space and is, as a consequence, more permeable to water and other small molecules.
Diagram of the arrangement of amphipathic lipid molecules to form a lipid bilayer. The yellow polar head groups separate the grey hydrophobic tails from the aqueous cytosolic and extracellular environments.
Illustration of a GPCR signaling protein. In response to a molecule such as a hormone binding to the exterior domain (blue) the GPCR changes shape and catalyzes a chemical reaction on the interior domain (red). The gray feature is the surrounding bilayer.
Alpha intercalated cell
Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) image of a lipid vesicle. The two dark bands around the edge are the two leaflets of the bilayer. Historically, similar images confirmed that the cell membrane is a bilayer
Diagram of the Cell Membrane's structures.
Human red blood cells viewed through a fluorescence microscope. The cell membrane has been stained with a fluorescent dye. Scale bar is 20μm.
3d-Adapted AFM images showing formation of transmembrane pores (holes) in supported lipid bilayer
Illustration of a typical AFM scan of a supported lipid bilayer. The pits are defects in the bilayer, exposing the smooth surface of the substrate underneath.
Structure of a potassium ion channel. The alpha helices penetrate the bilayer (boundaries indicated by red and blue lines), opening a hole through which potassium ions can flow
Schematic illustration of pinocytosis, a type of endocytosis
Exocytosis of outer membrane vesicles (MV) liberated from inflated periplasmic pockets (p) on surface of human Salmonella 3,10:r:- pathogens docking on plasma membrane of macrophage cells (M) in chicken ileum, for host-pathogen signaling in vivo.
Schematic showing two possible conformations of the lipids at the edge of a pore. In the top image the lipids have not rearranged, so the pore wall is hydrophobic. In the bottom image some of the lipid heads have bent over, so the pore wall is hydrophilic.
Illustration of lipid vesicles fusing showing two possible outcomes: hemifusion and full fusion. In hemifusion, only the outer bilayer leaflets mix. In full fusion both leaflets as well as the internal contents mix.
Schematic illustration of the process of fusion through stalk formation.
Diagram of the action of SNARE proteins docking a vesicle for exocytosis. Complementary versions of the protein on the vesicle and the target membrane bind and wrap around each other, drawing the two bilayers close together in the process.

The cell membrane (also known as the plasma membrane (PM) or cytoplasmic membrane, and historically referred to as the plasmalemma) is a biological membrane that separates the interior of all cells from the outside environment (the extracellular space) and protects the cell from its environment.

- Cell membrane

The cell membrane consists of a lipid bilayer, made up of two layers of phospholipids with cholesterols (a lipid component) interspersed between them, maintaining appropriate membrane fluidity at various temperatures.

- Cell membrane

Biological membranes, in the form of eukaryotic cell membranes, consist of a phospholipid bilayer with embedded, integral and peripheral proteins used in communication and transportation of chemicals and ions.

- Biological membrane

The cell membranes of almost all organisms and many viruses are made of a lipid bilayer, as are the nuclear membrane surrounding the cell nucleus, and membranes of the membrane-bound organelles in the cell.

- Lipid bilayer
Illustration of a Eukaryotic cell membrane

3 related topics with Alpha


Onion (Allium cepa) root cells in different phases of the cell cycle (drawn by E. B. Wilson, 1900)

Cell (biology)

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Basic structural and functional unit of life forms.

Basic structural and functional unit of life forms.

Onion (Allium cepa) root cells in different phases of the cell cycle (drawn by E. B. Wilson, 1900)
Structure of a typical prokaryotic cell
Structure of a typical animal cell
Structure of a typical plant cell
Detailed diagram of lipid bilayer of cell membrane
A fluorescent image of an endothelial cell. Nuclei are stained blue, mitochondria are stained red, and microfilaments are stained green.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
Human cancer cells, specifically HeLa cells, with DNA stained blue. The central and rightmost cell are in interphase, so their DNA is diffuse and the entire nuclei are labelled. The cell on the left is going through mitosis and its chromosomes have condensed.
Diagram of the endomembrane system
Prokaryotes divide by binary fission, while eukaryotes divide by mitosis or meiosis.
An outline of the catabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
An overview of protein synthesis.
Within the nucleus of the cell (light blue), genes (DNA, dark blue) are transcribed into RNA. This RNA is then subject to post-transcriptional modification and control, resulting in a mature mRNA (red) that is then transported out of the nucleus and into the cytoplasm (peach), where it undergoes translation into a protein. mRNA is translated by ribosomes (purple) that match the three-base codons of the mRNA to the three-base anti-codons of the appropriate tRNA. Newly synthesized proteins (black) are often further modified, such as by binding to an effector molecule (orange), to become fully active.
Staining of a Caenorhabditis elegans highlights the nuclei of its cells.
Stromatolites are left behind by cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae. They are the oldest known fossils of life on Earth. This one-billion-year-old fossil is from Glacier National Park in the United States.
Robert Hooke's drawing of cells in cork, 1665

Every cell consists of a cytoplasm enclosed within a membrane, which contains many biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.

The cell membrane, or plasma membrane, is a selectively permeable biological membrane that surrounds the cytoplasm of a cell.

This membrane serves to separate and protect a cell from its surrounding environment and is made mostly from a double layer of phospholipids, which are amphiphilic (partly hydrophobic and partly hydrophilic).

(A) Electron micrograph of Halothiobacillus neapolitanus cells, arrows highlight carboxysomes. (B) Image of intact carboxysomes isolated from H. neapolitanus. Scale bars are 100 nm.


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Organelle is a specialized subunit, usually within a cell, that has a specific function.

Organelle is a specialized subunit, usually within a cell, that has a specific function.

(A) Electron micrograph of Halothiobacillus neapolitanus cells, arrows highlight carboxysomes. (B) Image of intact carboxysomes isolated from H. neapolitanus. Scale bars are 100 nm.
Structure of Candidatus Brocadia anammoxidans, showing an anammoxosome and intracytoplasmic membrane

Organelles are either separately enclosed within their own lipid bilayers (also called membrane-bound organelles) or are spatially distinct functional units without a surrounding lipid bilayer (non-membrane bound organelles).

Eukaryotic cells are structurally complex, and by definition are organized, in part, by interior compartments that are themselves enclosed by lipid membranes that resemble the outermost cell membrane.

Prokaryotes are not as structurally complex as eukaryotes, and were once thought as having little internal organization, and lack cellular compartments and internal membranes; but slowly, details are emerging about prokaryotic internal structures that overturn these assumptions.

Crystal structure of Potassium channel Kv1.2/2.1 Chimera. Calculated hydrocarbon boundaries of the lipid bilayer are indicated by red and blue lines.

Membrane protein

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Crystal structure of Potassium channel Kv1.2/2.1 Chimera. Calculated hydrocarbon boundaries of the lipid bilayer are indicated by red and blue lines.
Schematic representation of transmembrane proteins: 1. a single transmembrane α-helix (bitopic membrane protein) 2. a polytopic transmembrane α-helical protein 3. a polytopic transmembrane β-sheet protein The membrane is represented in light-brown.
Schematic representation of the different types of interaction between monotopic membrane proteins and the cell membrane: 1. interaction by an amphipathic α-helix parallel to the membrane plane (in-plane membrane helix) 2. interaction by a hydrophobic loop 3. interaction by a covalently bound membrane lipid (lipidation)  4. electrostatic or ionic interactions with membrane lipids (e.g. through a calcium ion)

Membrane proteins are common proteins that are part of, or interact with, biological membranes.

Integral membrane proteins are a permanent part of a cell membrane and can either penetrate the membrane (transmembrane) or associate with one or the other side of a membrane (integral monotopic).

Peripheral membrane proteins are temporarily attached either to the lipid bilayer or to integral proteins by a combination of hydrophobic, electrostatic, and other non-covalent interactions.