The presence of microdomains or rafts within cell membranes is a topic of intense study and debate. The role of these structures in cell physiology, however, is also not yet fully understood with many outstanding problems. This problem is partly based on the small size of raft structures that presents significant problems to their in vivo study, i.e., within live cell membranes. But the structure and dynamics as well as the factors that control the assembly and disassembly of rafts are also of major interest. In this review we outline some of the problems that the study of rafts in cell membranes present as well as describing some views of what are considered the generalised functions of membrane rafts. We point to the possibility that there may be several different 'types' of membrane raft in cell membranes and consider the factors that affect raft assembly and disassembly, particularly, as some researchers suggest that the lifetimes of rafts in cell membranes may be sub-second. We attempt to review some of the methods that offer the ability to interrogate rafts directly as well as describing factors that appear to affect their functionality. The former include both near-field and far-field optical approaches as well as scanning probe techniques. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques are outlined. Finally, we describe our own views of raft functionality and properties, particularly, concerning the membrane dipole potential, and describe briefly some of the imaging strategies we have developed for their study.
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||European Biophysics Journal|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Oct 2008|
- Diffraction limit
- Dipole potential
- Membrane microdomains
ASJC Scopus subject areas