Compositional lipid microdomains ("lipid rafts") in plasma membranes are believed to be important components of many cellular processes. The biophysical mechanisms by which cells regulate the size, lifetime, and spatial localization of these domains are rather poorly understood at the moment. Over the years, experimental studies of raft formation have inspired several phenomenological theories and speculations incorporating a wide variety of thermodynamic assumptions regarding lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions, and the potential role of active cellular processes on membrane structure. Here we critically review and discuss these theories, models, and speculations, and present our view on future directions.
Copyright 2009 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.