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Cell Membrane Information Worksheet

Composition of the Cell Membrane & Functions

The cell membrane is also called the plasma membrane. It is made of a
phospholipid bilayer. This double layer of lipids is also known as a fluid mosaic
because the phospholipids that make up the membrane lie next to each other but are
not connected. This gives the cell membrane a fluid motion. The cell membrane is
embedded with many different proteins and other substances that allow some selective
materials to enter and leave the cell. The many different substances that are
embedded in the cell membrane give it a look similar to a mosaic in the art world which
uses pieces of tile to form a picture or design.

The phospholipids have a polar, hydrophilic (water attracting) head and two
nonpolar, hydrophobic (water repelling) tails. Phospholipids can move from side to
side and allow water and other small molecules to pass through into or out of the
cell. Since the cell membrane is mostly made of lipids, only lipid soluble (meaning
things that can dissolve in lipids) substances such as oxygen and carbon dioxide can
pass through in this way. Other substances that are water soluble need to pass through
openings created by different kinds of proteins which are inserted into the membrane.
Water soluble substances include molecules like glucose, amino acids, ions and water.

A concentration gradient is a difference in concentration between the fluid or
solution outside a cell and the concentration within the cell. When the movement of
molecules does NOT require energy the molecules are moving down the concentration
gradient (from a higher concentration to a lower concentration). This is known as
simple diffusion. The special term for the diffusion of water is osmosis.

Membrane proteins that make up the mosaic of the membrane are very important.
Some proteins are attached to the surfaces of the cell membrane. These peripheral
proteins are located on both the interior surface and the exterior surface of the cell
membrane. The proteins that are inserted into the lipid bilayer are called integral
proteins. Because the cell membrane is selectively permeable (only allowing certain
things to pass), cells must have way for transporting molecules through the lipid bilayer.
Membrane proteins play an important role in this process. For example, some integral
proteins form channels or pores through which certain substances can pass. Other
proteins bind to a substance on one side of the membrane and carry it to the other side
of the membrane. These proteins are called transport proteins.

Proteins form pores or channels in the cell membrane which allows water, which is
not lipid soluble, to move freely across the cell membrane from an area of greater
concentration to an area of lesser concentration.

Large molecules like glucose or other carbohydrates use transport proteins with
carbohydrate chains to help move across cell membranes. The carbohydrate chains act
like ID cards to help cell recognize certain molecules. Because the large molecules are
moving down the concentration gradient (from higher to lower) they do not require
energy. It is still a type of diffusion, but with the help of a protein. This process is called
facilitated diffusion.

Color the diagram of the phospholipid bilayer as follows.

Heads of the lipid molecules – red
Tails of the lipid molecules – blue
Proteins (B, C, and H) - yellow
Carbohydrate Chains - orange

1. Explain why the cell membrane is called a fluid mosaic.

2. The phospholipids have a polar, ___________ head and two nonpolar
_____________ tails.

3. Define hydrophilic - _______________________________________________

4. Define hydrophobic - ______________________________________________

5. Since the cell membrane is mostly lipids, only lipid soluble substances such as
_______________ and _______________ can pass through.

6. Water soluble substances need to pass through openings created by different kinds of
_________________ which are embedded in the membrane.

7. Give examples of water soluble substances: ________________, _______

_________, ___________, and water.

8. What is a concentration gradient?

9. When molecules move from a higher concentration to a lower concentration, it is

known as simple __________________.

10. The diffusion of water is called ___________________.

11. Describe the function of a transport protein.

12. What type of molecules use transport proteins?

13. Carbohydrate chains act like ______ cards to help cells recognize certain

14. What is facilitated diffusion?