A critical survey of methods to detect plasma membrane rafts

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Dec 24;368(1611):20120033. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0033. Print 2013 Feb 5.


The plasma membrane is still one of the enigmatic cellular structures. Although the microscopic structure is getting clearer, not much is known about the organization at the nanometre level. Experimental difficulties have precluded unambiguous approaches, making the current picture rather fuzzy. In consequence, a variety of different membrane models has been proposed over the years, on the basis of different experimental strategies. Recent data obtained via high-resolution single-molecule microscopy shed new light on the existing hypotheses. We thus think it is a good time for reviewing the consistency of the existing models with the new data. In this paper, we summarize the available models in ten propositions, each of which is discussed critically with respect to the applied technologies and the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches. Our aim is to provide the reader with a sound basis for his own assessment. We close this chapter by exposing our picture of the membrane organization at the nanoscale.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol
  • Diffusion
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lipoylation
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Models, Biological*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sphingomyelins / chemistry


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sphingomyelins
  • Cholesterol