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Focus on Membrane Differentiation and Membrane Domains in the Prokaryotic Cell
Boekema, E.J.; Scheffers, D.-J.; van Bezouwen, L.S.; Bolhuis, H.; Folea, I.M. (2013). Focus on Membrane Differentiation and Membrane Domains in the Prokaryotic Cell. J. Mol. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 23(4-5): 345-356. dx.doi.org/10.1159/000351361
In: Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology. Karger: Basel. ISSN 1464-1801, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
Author keywords
    Bacteria; Membranes; Electron microscopy

Authors  Top 
  • Boekema, E.J.
  • Scheffers, D.-J.
  • van Bezouwen, L.S.
  • Bolhuis, H., more
  • Folea, I.M.

Abstract
    A summary is presented of membrane differentiation in the prokaryotic cell, with an emphasis on the organization of proteins in the plasma/cell membrane. Many species belonging to the Eubacteria and Archaea have special membrane domains and/or membrane proliferation, which are vital for different cellular processes. Typical membrane domains are found in bacteria where a specific membrane protein is abundantly expressed. Lipid rafts form another example. Despite the rareness of conventional organelles as found in eukaryotes, some bacteria are known to have an intricate internal cell membrane organization. Membrane proliferation can be divided into curvature and invaginations which can lead to internal compartmentalization. This study discusses some of the clearest examples of bacteria with such domains and internal membranes. The need for membrane specialization is highest among the heterogeneous group of bacteria which harvest light energy, such as photosynthetic bacteria and halophilic archaea. Most of the highly specialized membranes and domains, such as the purple membrane, chromatophore and chlorosome, are found in these autotrophic organisms. Otherwise the need for membrane differentiation is lower and variable, except for those structures involved in cell division. Microscopy techniques have given essential insight into bacterial membrane morphology. As microscopy will further contribute to the unraveling of membrane organization in the years to come, past and present technology in electron microscopy and light microscopy is discussed. Electron microscopy was the first to unravel bacterial morphology because it can directly visualize membranes with inserted proteins, which no other technique can do. Electron microscopy techniques developed in the 1950s and perfected in the following decades involve the thin sectioning and freeze fractioning of cells. Several studies from the golden age of these techniques show amazing examples of cell membrane morphology. More recently, light microscopy in combination with the use of fluorescent dyes has become an attractive technique for protein localization with the natural membrane. However, the resolution problem in light microscopy remains and overinterpretation of observed phenomena is a pitfall. Thus, light microscopy as a stand-alone technique is not sufficient to prove, for instance, the long-range helical distribution of proteins in membrane such as MinD spirals in Bacillus subtilis. Electron tomography is an emerging electron microscopy technique that can provide three-dimensional reconstructions of small, nonchemically fixed bacteria. It will become a useful tool for studying prokaryotic membranes in more detail and is expected to collect information complementary to those of advanced light microscopy. Together, microscopy techniques can meet the challenge of the coming years: to specify membrane structures in more detail and to bring them to the level of specific protein-protein interactions. Copyright (C) 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel

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