The structure and function of cells is critically dependent on membranes, which not only separate the interior of the cell from its environment but also define the internal compartments of eukaryotic cells, including the nucleus and cytoplasmic organelles. The formation of biological membranes is based on the properties of lipids, and all cell membranes share a common structural organization: bilayers of phospholipids with associated proteins. These membrane proteins are responsible for many specialized functions; some act as receptors that allow the cell to respond to external signals, some are responsible for the selective transport of molecules across the membrane, and others participate in electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation. In addition, membrane proteins control the interactions between cells of multicellular organisms. The common structural organization of membranes thus underlies a variety of biological processes and specialized membrane function.
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