Dynamic organizing principles of the plasma membrane that regulate signal transduction: commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Singer and Nicolson's fluid-mosaic model

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2012;28:215-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100809-151736. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


The recent rapid accumulation of knowledge on the dynamics and structure of the plasma membrane has prompted major modifications of the textbook fluid-mosaic model. However, because the new data have been obtained in a variety of research contexts using various biological paradigms, the impact of the critical conceptual modifications on biomedical research and development has been limited. In this review, we try to synthesize our current biological, chemical, and physical knowledge about the plasma membrane to provide new fundamental organizing principles of this structure that underlie every molecular mechanism that realizes its functions. Special attention is paid to signal transduction function and the dynamic aspect of the organizing principles. We propose that the cooperative action of the hierarchical three-tiered mesoscale (2-300 nm) domains--actin-membrane-skeleton induced compartments (40-300 nm), raft domains (2-20 nm), and dynamic protein complex domains (3-10 nm)--is critical for membrane function and distinguishes the plasma membrane from a classical Singer-Nicolson-type model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Membrane Microdomains / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Membrane Proteins