Chapter

The physics of the cell membrane

Martin Michael Müller and Martine Ben Amar

in New Trends in the Physics and Mechanics of Biological Systems

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199605835
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729522 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199605835.003.0009

Series: Lecture Notes of the Les Houches Summer School

The physics of the cell membrane

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This chapter introduces some important aspects of the physics of the cell membrane. After a short presentation of the biological facts the chapters shows how the elasticity of the lipid bilayer membrane can be described in the framework of a two-dimensional surface model. Equilibrium shapes of the membrane are governed by a nonlinear partial differential equation and depend on elastic material constants. The atomic force microscope is presented as one experimental tool which can be used to determine these constants locally. The chapter concludes with a discussion of multi-component membranes and their segregation into domains (‘rafts’). In particular, questions of the stability of these inhomogeneous systems are discussed in the same framework as the two-dimensional surface model, and finally they are compared to experiments.

Keywords: cell membrane; lipid bilayer elasticity; atomic force microscopy; multi-component membranes; rafts

Chapter.  16893 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Physics

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