- Human pathology

Home > B. Cellular pathology > lipid bilayer

lipid bilayer

Friday 9 March 2007

Biological membrane

A biological membrane is a form of lipid bilayer, as is a liposome. The formation of lipid bilayers is an energetically-preferred process when the glycerophospholipids described above are in an aqueous environment.

In an aqueous system, the polar heads of lipids orientate towards the polar, aqueous environment, while the hydrophobic tails minimise their contact with water.

The lipophilic tails of lipids (U) tend to cluster together, forming a lipid bilayer (1) or a micelle (2). Other aggregations are also observed and form part of the polymorphism of amphiphile (lipid) behaviour.

The polar heads (P) face the aqueous environment, curving away from the water. Phase behaviour is a complicated area within biophysics and is the subject of current academic research. Micelles and bilayers form in the polar medium by a process known as the hydrophobic effect.

When dissolving a lipophilic or amphiphilic substance in a polar environment, the polar molecules (i.e. water in an aqueous solution) become more ordered around the dissolved lipophilic substance, since the polar molecules cannot form hydrogen bonds to the lipophilic areas of the amphiphile.

So in an aqueous environment the water molecules form an ordered "clathrate" cage around the dissolved lipophilic molecule.

See also

- cellular membranes

  • plasma membrane


- Fluidity of the Lipid Bilayer

@<@object width="425" height="350">@<@param name="movie" value="">@<@/param>@<@param name="wmode" value="transparent">@<@/param>@<@embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350">@<@/embed>@<@/object>


- Bennett V, Healy J. Organizing the fluid membrane bilayer: diseases linked to spectrin and ankyrin. Trends Mol Med. 2008 Jan;14(1):28-36. PMID: 18083066