The fence and picket structure of the plasma membrane of live cells as revealed by single molecule techniques (Review)

Mol Membr Biol. Jan-Mar 2003;20(1):13-8. doi: 10.1080/0968768021000055698.


Models of the organization of the plasma membrane of live cells as discovered through diffusion measurements of integral membrane molecules (transmembrane and GPI-anchored proteins, and lipid) at the single molecule level are discussed. Diffusion of transmembrane protein and, indeed, even lipid is anomalous in that the molecules tend to diffuse freely in limited size compartments, with infrequent intercompartment transitions. This average residency time in a compartment is dependent on the diffusing species and on its state of oligomerization, becoming completely confined to a single compartment upon sufficient oligomerization. This will be of great importance in determining cellular mechanisms for controlling the random diffusive motion of membrane molecules and in understanding signalling processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Structural*
  • Molecular Biology / methods*


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins