Lipid rafts: at a crossroad between cell biology and physics

Nat Cell Biol. 2007 Jan;9(1):7-14. doi: 10.1038/ncb0107-7.


Membrane lateral heterogeneity is accepted as a requirement for the function of biological membranes and the notion of lipid rafts gives specificity to this broad concept. However, the lipid raft field is now at a technical impasse because the physical tools to study biological membranes as a liquid that is ordered in space and time are still being developed. This has lead to a disconnection between the concept of lipid rafts as derived from biochemical and biophysical assays and their existence in the cell. Here, we compare the concept of lipid rafts as it has emerged from the study of synthetic membranes with the reality of lateral heterogeneity in biological membranes. Further application of existing tools and the development of new tools are needed to understand the dynamic heterogeneity of biological membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biology*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Physical Phenomena
  • Physics*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Proteins