The state of lipid rafts: from model membranes to cells

Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct. 2003;32:257-83. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.32.110601.142439. Epub 2003 Jan 16.


Lipid raft microdomains were conceived as part of a mechanism for the intracellular trafficking of lipids and lipid-anchored proteins. The raft hypothesis is based on the behavior of defined lipid mixtures in liposomes and other model membranes. Experiments in these well-characterized systems led to operational definitions for lipid rafts in cell membranes. These definitions, detergent solubility to define components of rafts, and sensitivity to cholesterol deprivation to define raft functions implicated sphingolipid- and cholesterol-rich lipid rafts in many cell functions. Despite extensive work, the basis for raft formation in cell membranes and the size of rafts and their stability are all uncertain. Recent work converges on very small rafts <10 nm in diameter that may enlarge and stabilize when their constituents are cross-linked.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol / chemistry*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Detergents / chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Liposomes / chemistry*
  • Liposomes / metabolism
  • Membrane Fluidity
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry*
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Sphingolipids / chemistry*
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism


  • Detergents
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lipids
  • Liposomes
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Sphingolipids
  • Cholesterol