Summary
The plasma membranes of cells contain combinations of glycosphingolipids, cholesterol and protein receptors organised in glycolipoprotein lipid microdomains termed lipid rafts. Their existence in cellular membranes remains somewhat controversial. It has been proposed that they are specialized membrane microdomains which compartmentalize cellular processes by serving as organising centers for the assembly of signaling molecules, allowing a closer interaction of protein receptors and their effectors to promote kinetically favorable interactions necessary for the signal transduction. Lipid rafts influence membrane fluidity and membrane protein trafficking, thereby regulating neurotransmission and receptor trafficking. Lipid rafts are more ordered and tightly packed than the surrounding bilayer, but float freely within the membrane bilayer. Although more common in the cell membrane, lipid rafts have also been reported in other parts of the cell, such as the Golgi apparatus and lysosomes. One key difference between lipid rafts and the plasma membranes from which they are derived is lipid composition. Research has shown that lipid rafts contain 3 to 5-fold the amount of cholesterol found in the surrounding bilayer. Also, lipid rafts are enriched in sphingolipids such as sphingomyelin, which is typically elevated by 50% compared to the plasma membrane. To offset the elevated sphingolipid levels, phosphatidylcholine levels are decreased which results in similar choline-containing lipid levels between the rafts and the surrounding plasma membrane. Cholesterol interacts preferentially, although not exclusively, with sphingolipids due to their structure and the saturation of the hydrocarbon chains. Although not all of the phospholipids within the raft are fully saturated, the hydrophobic chains of the lipids contained in the rafts are more saturated and tightly packed than the surrounding bilayer. Cholesterol is the dynamic "glue" that holds the raft together.
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Related concepts (17)
Lipid raft
The plasma membranes of cells contain combinations of glycosphingolipids, cholesterol and protein receptors organised in glycolipoprotein lipid microdomains termed lipid rafts. Their existence in cellular membranes remains somewhat controversial. It has been proposed that they are specialized membrane microdomains which compartmentalize cellular processes by serving as organising centers for the assembly of signaling molecules, allowing a closer interaction of protein receptors and their effectors to promote kinetically favorable interactions necessary for the signal transduction.
Cell membrane
The cell membrane (also known as the plasma membrane or cytoplasmic membrane, and historically referred to as the plasmalemma) is a biological membrane that separates and protects the interior of a cell from the outside environment (the extracellular space). 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.
Sphingolipid
Sphingolipids are a class of lipids containing a backbone of sphingoid bases, which are a set of aliphatic amino alcohols that includes sphingosine. They were discovered in brain extracts in the 1870s and were named after the mythological sphinx because of their enigmatic nature. These compounds play important roles in signal transduction and cell recognition. Sphingolipidoses, or disorders of sphingolipid metabolism, have particular impact on neural tissue. A sphingolipid with a terminal hydroxyl group is a ceramide.
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