The cell membrane is the only structure that is found in all cells of all organisms. Biological membranes consist of an amphiphilic lipid bilayer with embedded, integral and peripheral proteins. The lipid bilayer provides a fluid matrix in which proteins laterally diffuse. The primary role of biological membranes is to separate aqueous compartments from their surroundings, maintaining separation of the cell from the environment, and, additionally in eukaryotic cells, separating functional areas within the cell from the rest of the cell. The permeability of this barrier to certain substances and the various modes by which membranes allow for the transport of certain substances are major topics. Additionally, biological membranes are involved in signal transduction through their role as the home of receptor molecules which function is to transmit messages in the form of chemical signals.
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Conceptual Vocabulary for Biological Membranes