How lipids affect the activities of integral membrane proteins

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Nov 3;1666(1-2):62-87. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2004.05.012.


The activities of integral membrane proteins are often affected by the structures of the lipid molecules that surround them in the membrane. One important parameter is the hydrophobic thickness of the lipid bilayer, defined by the lengths of the lipid fatty acyl chains. Membrane proteins are not rigid entities, and deform to ensure good hydrophobic matching to the surrounding lipid bilayer. The structure of the lipid headgroup region is likely to be important in defining the structures of those parts of a membrane protein that are located in the lipid headgroup region. A number of examples are given where the conformation of the headgroup-embedded region of a membrane protein changes during the reaction cycle of the protein; activities of such proteins might be expected to be particularly sensitive to lipid headgroup structure. Differences in hydrogen bonding potential and hydration between the headgroups of phosphatidycholines and phosphatidylethanolamines could be important factors in determining the effects of these lipids on protein activities, as well as any effects related to the tendency of the phosphatidylethanolamines to form a curved, hexagonal H(II) phase. Effects of lipid structure on protein aggregation and helix-helix interactions are also discussed, as well as the effects of charged lipids on ion concentrations close to the surface of the bilayer. Interpretations of lipid effects in terms of changes in protein volume, lipid free volume, and curvature frustration are also described. Finally, the role of non-annular, or 'co-factor' lipids, tightly bound to membrane proteins, is described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Membrane Fluidity
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Protein Binding
  • Static Electricity
  • Thermodynamics


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins