Protein lateral mobility as a reflection of membrane microstructure

Bioessays. 1993 Sep;15(9):579-88. doi: 10.1002/bies.950150903.


The lateral mobility of membrane lipids and proteins is presumed to play an important functional role in biomembranes. Photobleaching studies have shown that many proteins in the plasma membrane have diffusion coefficients at least an order of magnitude lower than those obtained when the same proteins are reconstituted in artificial bilayer membranes. Depending on the protein, it has been shown that either the cytoplasmic domain or the ectodomain is the key determinant of its lateral mobility. Single particle tracking microscopy, which allows the motions of single or small groups of membrane molecules to be followed, promises not only to reveal new features of membrane dynamics, but also to help explain longstanding puzzles presented by the photobleaching studies, particularly the so-called immobile fraction. The combination of the two complementary technologies should measurably enhance our understanding of membrane microstructure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Diffusion
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Gold Colloid
  • Membrane Fluidity
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / radiation effects
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Photochemistry
  • Protein Conformation


  • Gold Colloid
  • Membrane Proteins