Bacterial Membranes: Structure, Domains, and Function

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2017 Sep 8;71:519-538. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-102215-095630. Epub 2017 Jul 11.


The bacterial cytoplasmic membrane is composed of roughly equal proportions of lipids and proteins. The main lipid components are phospholipids, which vary in acyl chain length, saturation, and branching and carry head groups that vary in size and charge. Phospholipid variants determine membrane properties such as fluidity and charge that in turn modulate interactions with membrane-associated proteins. We summarize recent advances in understanding bacterial membrane structure and function, focusing particularly on the possible existence and significance of specialized membrane domains. We review the role of membrane curvature as a spatial cue for recruitment and regulation of proteins involved in morphogenic functions, especially elongation and division. Finally, we examine the role of the membrane, especially regulation of synthesis and fluid properties, in the life cycle of cell wall-deficient L-form bacteria.

Keywords: bacterial lipids; lipid domain; membrane curvature; membrane domain; membrane structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / chemistry
  • Bacteria / cytology*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Membrane Fluidity
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis
  • Phospholipids / analysis


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phospholipids