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Phase Transitions And Fluidity Characteristics Of Lipids And Cell Membranes

D. Chapman

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The concept that the liquid crystalline or mesomorphic condition was of importance to biological systems is a relatively old idea. Thus Bernal (1933) when discussing the different types of arrangements of molecules in liquid crystals commented ‘Such structures belong to the liquid crystal as a unit and not to its molecules which may be replaced by others without destroying them and they persist in spite of the complete fluidity of the substance. These are just the properties to be required for a degree of organization between that of the continuous substance, liquid or crystalline solid and even the simplest living cell.’ Stewart (1961) some thirty years later also stated that ‘It is this property – the combination of flow and lability with a preferred and relatively stable molecular orientation – that makes the mesomorphic (i.e. liquid crystal) phase uniquely appropriate to the structure of protoplasm and living tissue.’