Q:

What is the function of phospholipids?

A:

Quick Answer

The most important function of phospholipids is to form the phospholipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. In this bilayer, phospholipids are arranged so that their hydrophobic heads are pointing outwards and their hydrophilic tails are pointing inwards. This arrangement allows plasma membranes to be selectively permeable to solutes such as proteins, ions and water.

Continue Reading

Full Answer

Phospholipids are composed of two fatty acid chains and one glycerol compound. The fatty acid chains act as the tails of the phospholipid while glycerol acts as a head. The glycerol molecule also attaches to a phosphate group. The phosphate group causes the glycerol head to become hydrophilic. The ability for phospholipids to be both hydrophobic and hydrophilic causes the compounds to be amphipathic.

In biological system, phospholipids allow cell membranes to be fluid. Their unique characteristics allow the cell membrane to take different shapes and expand and shrink when necessary.

Phospholipids can also be used as signal transducers between cells. They can be split to produce products that function as second messengers in cellular systems. As a second messenger, phospholipids can signal for leukocytes to migrate to a site of infection, and they can also inhibit neurons. Phospholipids can also be found in plants and can help produce certain plant hormones.

Learn more about Cells

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the various specialized structures in a eukaryotic cell?

    A:

    Structures inside a eukaryotic cell include a nucleus, genetic material, a plasma membrane, ribosomes and a cytoplasm. The majority of eukaryotic cells also include internal structures within their membranes, known as organelles. Mitochrondria, golgi bodies, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum and vesicles are the different types of organelles.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are the four main functions of the plasma membrane?

    A:

    The four main functions of the plasma membrane include identification, communication, regulation of solute exchange through the membrane, and isolation of the cytoplasm from the external environment. The plasma membrane is a semi-permeable phospholipid bilayer that contains a hydrophilic head and a non-polar hydrophobic tail. It contains hydrogen bonds between the phospholipids that help hold the plasma membrane together; cholesterol molecules are also embedded into the membrane for fluidity.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What structures do all cells have?

    A:

    All cells, which include eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, have a plasma membrane, DNA, ribosomes and cytoplasm. The plasma membrane is a protective barrier that separates the cell from the rest of its environment. The plasma membrane does allow material to be transported through it.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are the three main parts of a cell?

    A:

    The three main parts of a cell are the plasma membrane, the region containing the DNA and the cytoplasm. However, not all cells have exactly the same basic parts. There is a difference between the structures of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore