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Cell Membrane

While the plant cell has a rigid cell wall, an animal cell membrane is a flexible lipid bilayer. The lipid
molecules (mostly phospholipids) that make up the membrane have a polar, hydrophilic head and two
hydrophobic hydrocarbon tails. When the lipids are immersed in an aqueous solution the lipids
spontaneously bury the tails together and leave the hydrophilic heads exposed. Thus this is a handy
membrane to use, because it can automatically fix itself when torn. There are three different major
classes of lipid molecules - phospholipids, cholesterol, and glycolipids. Different membranes have
different ratios of the three lipids.

What makes the membrane truly special is the presence of different proteins on the surface that are
used for various functions such as cell surface receptors, enzymes, surface antigens, and
transporters. Many of the membrane-associated proteins have hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions.
The hydrophilic regions are used to help anchor the protein inside of the cell membrane. Some
proteins extend across the lipid bilayer, others cross the bilayer several times

Diagram of the cell membrane. The proteins are embedded inside of the cell membrane. The lipid
content of the membrane allows the cell membrane to automatically repair itself when it is torn.

Membrane Transport of Small Molecules

Because of the hydrophobic interior of the lipid bilayer, polar molecules cannot enter the cell.
However, cells devised means of transferring small polar molecules. Transport proteins, each
specialized for a certain molecule, can transport polar molecules across the membrane. There are
several types of membrane transport proteins. Uniports simply move solutes from one side to
another. Cotransport systems work by simultaneously sending two solutes across the lipid bilayer.
There are two types of cotransport systems - symport, in which the solutes are sent in the same
direction, or antiport, in which they are sent in opposite directions. These transport proteins work
passively, meaning that the cell doesn't have to expend energy sending the solute in or out. This is
dependent on the solute moving in its natural direction - i.e. moving from more concentrated solution
to less concentrated, or from positive to negative.

Some specific examples of transport membranes are channel proteins, which allow solutes to cross if
they are the correct size and charge. Carrier proteins bind to the solute and lead it through the

energy (ATP) is needed to pump the solute in or out. These are examples of passive transport. In receptor-mediated endocytosis. which creates a high concentration of potassium inside the cell. In exocytosis the contents of special vesicles are released when the vesicle fuses with the cell membrane.for example higher concentration to lower concentration. The reverse applies to the sodium. which in conjunction with the potassium leak channel. which gives the cell and negative charge on the inside. In endocytosis the membrane depresses and pinches off. To move a solute against their natural direction . which binds the signaling molecule and sends a signal that alters the behavior of the target cell. allowing the cell to select what molecules to take and what to reject. Membrane Receptors The cell membrane is pocketed with receptors and antigens. respectively. The potassium leak channel allows the potassium to leak out (so to even out the concentrations). allows the cell the control it's membrane potential.pinocytotic (small) and phagocytic (large).bilayer. pump pumps sodium out and potassium in. Two different sizes are formed . An example of active transport is the sodium-potassium pump. The sodium-potassium- ATPase. and antiport. enclosing the molecule. Diagram comparing uniport. symport. If any foreign materials are detected the immune system will mobilize its killer T-cells to destroy the foreign cell. . Antigens are used to tell the cell whether foreign materials are present. Membrane Transport of Macromolecules Most cells use exocytosis and endocytosis to secrete and ingest macromolecules. coated pits and vesicles bind to specific receptors on the cell surface. which uses the energy of ATP hydrolysis. Molecules targeted toward that specific cell will bind with the cell surface receptor. and a low concentration outside.