Major Type of Lipid Found in the Cell Membrane

Instructor: Dominic Corsini
Cell membranes are made from many different molecules; however, the most pertinent is arguably the lipid. This lesson will discuss which type of lipid forms the majority of the membrane. A brief quiz and summation are included.

What are Cell Membranes?

What do cells and fats have in common? At first these things might seem unrelated, but without fats you probably wouldn't have cells. Sound peculiar? Let's explore this connection further. Most of us recognize that living things are composed of cells. In fact, millions of specialized cells exist and perform various functions to keep you alive. But all these cells are not identical. Some cells work within your muscles, others help absorb nutrients, and still others form your skeleton. Yet despite these differences there are things that all cells have in common; they all contain a cell membrane. Cell membranes are the outer covering of cells, and they help control entry and exit of material from the cell. See the outer covering of this animal cell? That's the cell membrane.

Animal Cell
Animal Cell

What are Lipids?

Have you ever used fats for cooking? Have you ever read that certain foods contain substantial amounts of cholesterol? Well, fat and cholesterol are both types of lipids. Lipids are a collection of molecules that includes fats, waxes, sterols, and certain vitamins. These lipids are useful for not only cooking or tissue building (as cholesterol is), they're also essential for producing our cell membranes. We can explore that connection below.

Lipids in the Cell Membrane

How do lipids and cell membranes relate? Well, the answer to this question is really quite simple. Cell membranes are made of lipids! And while there are other components to cell membranes, lipids are the major player in membrane structure. See the cell membrane picture below? The little red things with yellow tails are lipids. More specifically, they're called phospholipids. Phospholipids are a specialized type of lipids that are used for building membranes. Phospholipids in the cell membrane are arranged like this:


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