The physics of the cell membrane
This chapter introduces some important aspects of the physics of the cell membrane. After a short presentation of the biological facts the chapters shows how the elasticity of the lipid bilayer membrane can be described in the framework of a two-dimensional surface model. Equilibrium shapes of the membrane are governed by a nonlinear partial differential equation and depend on elastic material constants. The atomic force microscope is presented as one experimental tool which can be used to determine these constants locally. The chapter concludes with a discussion of multi-component membranes and their segregation into domains (‘rafts’). In particular, questions of the stability of these inhomogeneous systems are discussed in the same framework as the two-dimensional surface model, and finally they are compared to experiments.
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