From Dynamics to Membrane Organization: Experimental Breakthroughs Occasion a "Modeling Manifesto"

Biophys J. 2018 Aug 21;115(4):595-604. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2018.07.012. Epub 2018 Jul 21.


New experimental techniques, especially in the context of observing molecular dynamics, reveal the plasma membrane to be heterogeneous and "scale rich," from nanometers to microns and from microseconds to seconds. This is critical information, which shows that scale-dependent transport governs the molecular encounters that underlie cellular signaling. The data are rich and reaffirm the importance of the cortical cytoskeleton, protein aggregates, and lipidomic complexity on the statistics of molecular encounters. Moreover, the data demand simulation approaches with a particular set of features, hence the "manifesto." Together with the experimental data, simulations that satisfy these requirements hold the promise of a deeper understanding of membrane spatiotemporal organization. Several experimental breakthroughs in measuring molecular membrane dynamics are reviewed, the constraints that they place on simulations are discussed, and the status of simulation approaches that aim to meet them are detailed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins