AAT Bioquest

What factors affect the cell membrane structure?

Posted November 27, 2023


Cell membrane structure can be affected by a number of factors including pH, temperature, cholesterol levels, and the presence of certain lipids and proteins. 

How pH affects cell membrane structure

The cell membrane is sensitive to the pH of its surrounding environment. Changes in pH can disrupt the interactions between phospholipid molecules that make up the membrane, affecting membrane fluidity and charge distribution. Any change in the pH can potentially compromise the structure and functionality of the cell membrane. 

How temperature affects cell membrane structure

A rise or drop in temperature can affect cell membrane structure by directly impacting the fluidity of its lipid bilayer. 

At higher temperatures, molecular movement increases, which increases membrane fluidity and permeability, resulting in changes in the shape and structure of the membrane. 

At lower temperatures, molecular movement decreases, which decreases membrane fluidity, making the membrane more rigid and disrupting membrane function.  

How cholesterol levels affects cell membrane structure

Cholesterol serves a crucial function in maintaining cell membrane structure by acting as a stabilizing agent and balancing between membrane fluidity and rigidity. 

High cholesterol levels can decrease membrane fluidity and stability. 

Low cholesterol levels can increase membrane fluidity, which can disrupt optimal cell function.   

How presence of lipids and proteins affects cell membrane structure

The presence of certain lipids and proteins can impact the cell membrane’s stability and fluidity, compromising its structure and functionality.  

Additional resources

Factors Affecting the Membrane Permeability Barrier Function of Cells during Preservation Technologies

Plasma Membrane

Cell Navigator® Cell Plasma Membrane Staining Kit *Green Fluorescence*