Function and Characterization of Cellular Membranes

  • Rashmi Wardhan
  • Padmshree Mudgal


The eukaryotic cells are structurally more complex than the prokaryotic cells. The eukaryotic cells, apart from a plasma membrane that encloses the entire cell, also have intracellular membranes that enclose the various intracellular organelles like the nucleus, mitochondria, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, and the Golgi apparatus. The intracellular membranes divide the cell into specialized compartments; maintain their integrity and distinctiveness required to carry out specialized functions inside the cell. The plasma membrane, which interacts with extracellular matrix and neighboring cells, has specialized structures like the tight junctions, desmosomes, hemidesmosomes, and the gap junctions. The nuclear membrane, which encloses the genetic material, is a double membrane with a specialized nuclear pore complex which controls the transport of material between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. The “energy transformer” of the cell, the mitochondria, is also enclosed by a double membrane, the inner and the outer mitochondrial membrane. The protein complexes of the electron transport chain are associated with the inner membrane which is highly folded into winding structures with a large surface area, called the cristae. The endoplasmic reticulum is a system of channels similar to the waterway canals in Venice, which serve as passages throughout the cell that function in transporting, synthesizing, and storing biomolecules like lipid and proteins. The Golgi apparatus which appears like stacked flattened disks is responsible for sorting, modifying, and shipping off the products that come from the endoplasmic reticulum, much like an Airport cargo terminal. The lysosomes, which were once called “suicide bags,” are membrane-enclosed organelles that are rich in acid hydrolases capable of breaking down cellular contents.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryShivaji CollegeNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryDaulat Ram College, University of DelhiNew DelhiIndia

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