Science Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Describe five important features of the fluid mosaic model of membrane structure proposed by S.L Singer and G.L Nicholson.

Expert Answers info

hart379 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write25 answers

starTop subject is Science

The fluid mosaic model is used to represent the structure of the cell membrane.  The cell membrane is flexible and can move and shift sideways, much like a liquid shifts from side to side in a container when the container is disturbed.  It is because of the cell membrane's ability to shift that it is considered to be "fluid". 

A mosaic is a substance that is made up of a bunch of different parts (imagine a mosaic picture).  The cell membrane is also made up of  different parts that are integrated together, and this is where the mosaic part comes in.  The cell membrane is made up of lipids, proteins, and cholesterol.  The proteins and cholesterol molecules are imbedded in the phospholipid bilayer.  The proteins are important because they act like doors that allow certain molecules to enter into or leave the cell. 

The cell membrane is a bilayer.  This means that there are two layers sandwiched together.  Each layer consists of a phospholipid that has a hydrophillic head and a hydrophobic tail.  The tails of each layer point towards the center of the membrane and the heads of the layers are on the outside.  Imagine a peanut butter sandwich.  You have two pieces of bread, each with one side with peanut butter.  The peanut butter is on the inside on both pieces and the outside is dry on both pieces and points to the environment.  Hydrophobic means water fearing and hydrophillic means water loving.  This arrangement of the phospholipids regulate which molecules can go in or out of the cell. 


1.  fluid (can move)

2.  mosaic (made up of a lot of differnt parts integrated together)

3.  bilayer (helps regulate what goes in and out)

4.  proteins (serve as markers on the surface for identification purposes and to allow certain molecules in and out)

5.  transport (passive and active, allows molecules across membrane)

check Approved by eNotes Editorial