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Recent results from engineered and natural samples show that the starkly different lipids of archaea and bacteria can form stable hybrid membranes. But if the two types can mix, why don't they? That is, why do most bacteria and all eukaryotes have only typically bacterial lipids, and archaea archaeal lipids? It is suggested here that the reason may lie on the other main component of cellular membranes: membrane proteins, and their close adaptation to the lipids. Archaeal lipids in modern bacteria could suggest that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) had both lipid types. However, this would imply a rather elaborate evolutionary scenario, while negating simpler alternatives. In light of widespread horizontal gene transfer across the prokaryotic domains, hybrid membranes reveal that the lipid divide did not just occur once at the divergence of archaea and bacteria from LUCA. Instead, it continues to occur actively to this day.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology
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Lipids, predominantly phospholipids, cholesterol and small amounts of glycolipids found in membranes including cellular and intracellular membranes. These lipids may be arranged in bilayers in the membranes with integral proteins between the layers and peripheral proteins attached to the outside. Membrane lipids are required for active transport, several enzymatic activities and membrane formation.
A method used to study the lateral movement of MEMBRANE PROTEINS and LIPIDS. A small area of a cell membrane is bleached by laser light and the amount of time necessary for unbleached fluorescent marker-tagged proteins to diffuse back into the bleached site is a measurement of the cell membrane's fluidity. The diffusion coefficient of a protein or lipid in the membrane can be calculated from the data. (From Segen, Current Med Talk, 1995).
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A fluorescent compound that emits light only in specific configurations in certain lipid media. It is used as a tool in the study of membrane lipids.
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