Membrane fluidity matters: hyperthermia from the aspects of lipids and membranes

Int J Hyperthermia. 2013 Aug;29(5):491-9. doi: 10.3109/02656736.2013.808765. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


Hyperthermia is a promising treatment modality for cancer in combination both with radio- and chemotherapy. In spite of its great therapeutic potential, the underlying molecular mechanisms still remain to be clarified. Due to lipid imbalances and 'membrane defects' most of the tumour cells possess elevated membrane fluidity. However, further increasing membrane fluidity to sensitise to chemo- or radiotherapy could have some other effects. In fact, hyperfluidisation of cell membrane induced by membrane fluidiser initiates a stress response as the heat shock protein response, which may modulate positively or negatively apoptotic cell death. Overviewing some recent findings based on a technology allowing direct imaging of lipid rafts in live cells and lipidomics, novel aspects of the intimate relationship between the 'membrane stress' of tumour cells and the cellular heat shock response will be highlighted. Our findings lend support to both the importance of membrane remodelling and the release of lipid signals initiating stress protein response, which can operate in tandem to control the extent of the ultimate cellular thermosensitivity. Overall, we suggest that the fluidity variable of membranes should be used as an independent factor for predicting the efficacy of combinational cancer therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Membrane Fluidity*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Heat-Shock Proteins