IB Biology - Curriculum Notes 

1.3 Membrane structure 

Understandings: ∑

∑ - Phospholipids form bilayers in water due to the amphipathic properties of phospholipid molecules.

Hydrophilic and Hydrophobic Properties
  • Cell membranes are composed of phospholipids that consist of a hydrophilic (attracted to water) head and a hydrophobic (repelled by water) tail

  • This property is described as Amphipathic

  • The phospholipid head contains a negatively charged phosphate group which because of its charge is attracted water because of its polarity

  • The fatty acid hydrocarbon tail has no charge and is therefore repelled by water

  • When placed in water, the phospholipids naturally form a double layer with the heads facing outwards towards the water and the tails facing each other inwards

  • This forms a very stable structure that surrounds the cell because of the attractions and bonds that are formed between the heads to the water and to each other and the hydrophobic interactions between the tails

  • Even though it is a very stable structure, it is still fluid, as the phospholipids can move along the horizontal plane

  • To increase stability, many cells have cholesterol embedded between the phospholipids

∑ -  Membrane proteins are diverse in terms of structure, position in the membrane and function.

 Hormone binding sites (receptor proteins)

Proteins embedded in the membrane, which bind to specific hormones.
When the hormone binds, it causes the receptor protein to undergo a conformational change, which signals the cell to perform a function.
For example, insulin receptors.

Immobilized Enzymes

Integral proteins that catalyze specific chemical reactions.
Many of these enzymes catalyze metabolic reactions or are a part of a metabolic pathway, such as ATP Synthase in aerobic respiration.

Cell Adhesion

Proteins that form tight bonds between adjacent cells in tissues and organs.
For example, gap junctions.

Cell-to-cell communication

Receptors for neurotransmitters at synapses between two nerve cells.
Glycoproteins on the surface can also be used for cell identification purposes.

Channels for passive transport

Integral proteins that span the membrane and provide a passageway for molecules to move from an area of high concentration to low concentration.
Specific proteins are also used for facilitated diffusion.

Pumps for Active Transport

Proteins use ATP to move substances from a low concentration to a high concentration across the membrane.
For example, Sodium/Potassium (Na+/K+)  pumps and the proton (H+) pumps

∑ - Cholesterol is a component of animal cell membranes.

Most of the cell membrane contains phospholipids and proteins
Cholesterol is a lipid that belongs in the steroid group and is also a component of the cell membrane
Most of the cholesterol molecule is hydrophobic and therefore embeds within the tails of the bilayer. A small portion (hydroxyl –OH group) is hydrophilic and is attracted to the phospholipid head

Membrane Structure and Functionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBCVVszQQNs 

Applications and skills: ß

ß - Application: Cholesterol in mammalian membranes reduces membrane fluidity and permeability to some solutes.

  • Cholesterol embedded in the membrane will reduce the fluidity making the membrane more stable by the hydrophilic interactions with the phospholipid heads
  • While cholesterol adds firmness and integrity to the plasma membrane and prevents it from becoming overly fluid, it also helps maintain its fluidity by disrupting the regular packing of the hydrocarbon tails.
  • At the high concentrations, it is found in our cell's plasma membranes (close to 50 percent, molecule for molecule) cholesterol helps separate the phospholipids so that the fatty acid chains can't come together and crystallize.
  • Therefore, cholesterol helps prevent extremes-- whether too fluid or too firm-- in the consistency of the cell membrane

ß - Skill: Drawing of the fluid mosaic model.

  • The diagram of the plasma membrane above shows the phospholipid bilayer, cholesterol, glycoproteins, and integral (transmembrane) and peripheral proteins. Integral proteins are embedded in the phospholipid of the membrane, whereas peripheral proteins are attached to its surface. Glycoproteins are carbohydrates attached to surface proteins.

**Please note the when you draw a peripheral protein for the IB exam, the peripheral protein must not be embedded into the membrane in order to score the point***  Also, you should label the whole phospholipid bilayer not just the individual phospholipid on the majority of mark schemes 

ß - Skill: Analysis of evidence from electron microscopy that led to the proposal of the Davson-Danielli model.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZF7ViNo3Sw

ß - Skill: Analysis of the falsification of the Davson-Danielli model that led to the Singer-Nicolson model.

Davson and Danielli proposed a theory that the lipid bilayer was coated on either side with a layer of globular proteins (as seen below)

Using your text, the web and the library analyze the evidence and the falsification of the Davson-Danielli model of the cell membrane by completing the analysis on pages 26-27 in your text.  

Write your paragraph here.


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