Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics

Research Article

Physical principles of membrane organization

J. N. Israelachvilia1*, S. Marčeljaa1 and R. G. Horna1

a1 Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physical Sciences Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra A.C. T. 2600, Australia

Membranes are the most common cellular structures in both plants and animals. They are now recognized as being involved in almost all aspects of cellular activity ranging from motility and food entrapment in simple unicellular organisms, to energy transduction, immunorecognition, nerve conduction and biosynthesis in plants and higher organisms. This functional diversity is reflected in the wide variety of lipids and particularly of proteins that compose different membranes. An understanding of the physical principles that govern the molecular organization of membranes is essential for an understanding of their physiological roles since structure and function are much more interdependent in membranes than in, say, simple chemical reactions in solution. We must recognize, however, that the word ‘understanding’ means different things in different disciplines, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this multidisciplinary area where biology, chemistry and physics meet.


* (Aüo Department of Neurobiology, Research School of Biological Sciences)