Biology as Poetry: Biology

Bacteriophage Ecology Group


Term that biologically refers to lipid bilayers (i.e., cell… or biological…), large proteinaceous sheets (basement…), embryo associated structures (embryonic…), or body external coverings (mucous…).

Typically when the word "membrane" is used without qualification then one must look for context to determine which usage is intended. Thus, for example, if the discussion generally is about the functioning of cells, then membrane could be cell membrane, which in turn could mean plasma membrane, endomembrane, inner membrane, outer membrane, thylakoid membrane, etc.

Note that the term "biological membrane" can be used as a synonym for just these lipid-bilayer-based membranes. I tend, however, to use to term "cell membrane" equivalently to describe lipid bilayers that are associated with cells since the term "biological" is just a bit too ambiguous.

Whether biological or instead are artifacts, membranes generally are flat surfaces. They also may or may not be selectively permeable, though biological membranes, used in a general sense (i.e., see the definition in italics, above), do tend to be selectively permeable.

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