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Proteins as the Mosaic of the Cell Membrane

! The word “mosaic” in the fluid mosaic model is derived from the fact that an array of
proteins is embedded in the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. The proteins are
responsible for performing several critical functions that maintain the living cell.
! A summary of how membrane proteins are synthesized and the major roles they play in the
membrane follows.

The Golgi apparatus packages proteins that


are either enclosed or on the surface of
vesicles. The proteins can either be integrated
into or outside of the cell membrane.

Integral proteins, also called trans-


membranal proteins, are incorporated into
the cell membrane. Peripheral proteins are
located on the surface of the membrane.

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Cell membranes perform six major functions:

1. Transport. Illustration (a) shows that


proteins form channels to transport
substances across the membrane.
2. Metabolic pathway. Some proteins
function as enzymes (b), hydrolyzing
substances to form other molecules.
3. Conformational change. Proteins can be
involved in signal transduction, the
ability to induce a reaction in another part
of the cell.
(a) (b)

4. Junctions. Proteins can act as physical


bonding agents (c), holding cells together.
5. Cell-cell recognition. Antigens are foreign
molecules in an organism that elicit an
immune response. The presence of
proteins on the surface of the membrane
enables cells to distinguish self from non-
self.
6. Anchors. Cell membrane proteins anchor
collagen and other molecules of the
extracellular matrix (d).
(c) (d)

Proteins perform most of duties of the cell


membrane. Some of these proteins are
glycoproteins, meaning that they possess
carbohydrate tails. Glycoproteins vary from
individual to individual and are a key means by
which cells distinguish self from non-self.

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Copyright © 2000, Thinkwell Corp., All Rights Reserved. 031500bio076