Dynamic, yet structured: The cell membrane three decades after the Singer-Nicolson model

Research output: Review article

377 Citations (Scopus)


The fluid mosaic membrane model proved to be a very useful hypothesis in explaining many, but certainly not all, phenomena taking place in biological membranes. New experimental data show that the compartmentalization of membrane components can be as important for effective signal transduction as is the fluidity of the membrane. In this work, we pay tribute to the Singer-Nicolson model, which is near its 30th anniversary, honoring its basic features, "mosaicism" and "diffusion," which predict the interspersion of proteins and lipids and their ability to undergo dynamic rearrangement via Brownian motion. At the same time, modifications based on quantitative data are proposed, highlighting the often genetically predestined, yet flexible, multilevel structure implementing a vast complexity of cellular functions. This new "dynamically structured mosaic model" bears the following characteristics: emphasis is shifted from fluidity to mosaicism, which, in our interpretation, means nonrandom codistribution patterns of specific kinds of membrane proteins forming smallscale clusters at the molecular level and large-scale clusters (groups of clusters, islands) at the submicrometer level. The cohesive forces, which maintain these assemblies as principal elements of the membranes, originate from within a microdomain structure, where lipid-lipid, protein-protein, and protein-lipid interactions, as well as sub- and supramembrane (cytoskeletal, extracellular matrix, other cell) effectors, many of them genetically predestined, play equally important roles. The concept of fluidity in the original model now is interpreted as permissiveness of the architecture to continuous, dynamic restructuring of the molecular- and higher-level clusters according to the needs of the cell and as evoked by the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8053-8058
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - júl. 8 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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