Two-dimensional receptor patterns in the plasma membrane of cells. A critical evaluation of their identification, origin and information content

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A concise review is presented on the nature, possible origin and functional significance of cell surface receptor patterns in the plasma membrane of lymphoid cells. A special emphasize has been laid on the available methodological approaches, their individual virtues and sources of errors. Fluorescence energy transfer is one of the oldest available means for studying non-randomized co-distribution patterns of cell surface receptors. A detailed and critical description is given on the generation of two-dimensional cell surface receptor patterns based on pair-wise energy transfer measurements. A second hierarchical-level of receptor clusters have been described by electron and scanning force microscopies after immuno-gold-labeling of distinct receptor kinds. The origin of these receptor islands at a nanometer scale and island groups at a higher hierarchical (μm) level, has been explained mostly by detergent insoluble glycolipid-enriched complexes known as rafts, or detergent insoluble glycolipids (DIGs). These rafts are the most-likely organizational forces behind at least some kind of receptor clustering [K. Simons et al., Nature 387 (1997) 569]. These models, which have great significance in trans-membrane signaling and intra-membrane and intracellular trafficking, are accentuating the necessity to revisit the Singer-Nicolson fluid mosaic membrane model and substitute the free protein diffusion with a restricted diffusion concept [S.J. Singer et al., Science 175 (1972) 720]. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Chemistry
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 13 1999



  • Cell-surface organization
  • Electron microscopy
  • Fluorescence energy transfer
  • Receptor patterns
  • Scanning force microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

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