Role of Lipid Self-Assembly in Subcellular Morphogenesis

  • P. Sitte
Part of the Cell Biology Monographs book series (CELLBIOL, volume 8)


Every living organism can be characterized by its particular structure. At all levels of complexity, its structure is the basis for its specific functional activities. Since most of these structures change during development, one of the problems in biology is to understand how these structures are established. In dealing with morphogenesis at the subcellular level, it is advisable to differentiate between the processes of synthesis and Organization. The molecular building blocks, as synthesized by the metabolic machinery, must become organized in order to form more complex functional entities such as organelles. Mitochondria or plastids are not just “synthesized”. Whereas synthesis means the formation of covalent bonds by specific enzymes, any supramolecular Organization comes about (and depends on) weak interactions among identical or different molecular components. As these interactions are not mediated by enzymes, the formation of supramolecular entities in living cells is not an immediate consequence of genetic activity. Most (eu-)cellular structures are formed outside the nucleus. Genes, although highly “organized” structurally and functionally, act as scalars in cellular life, not as vectors. Supramolecular structures, on the other hand, are invariably manifestations of vectors.


Liquid Crystal Lipid Molecule Juglans Regia Lipid Globule Lipid Inclusion 
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© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Sitte
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Biology IIUniversity of Freiburg i. Br.Freiburg i. Br.Federal Republic of Germany

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