Membrane Proteins

Membranes are thin sheets of tissue that cover, connect or protect organs in humans and proteins are bodily material that are, essentially, the building blocks of all cells. The human body is composed of various forms of cells clumped together to perform certain functions. What we now need to know is how membranes and proteins interact.

Protein is fibrous tissue that interacts with membranes on their surface or is embedded within. Proteins within the membrane are necessary for the membrane to do the work for which it is designed; on the surface membranes are used as signals to get messages from one cell to another.

On the inside of membranes, proteins work to help molecules, minute chemical compounds, move across the membrane. Other words descriptive of these two types of proteins are intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic being on the inside, as the prefix in’ signifies, and extrinsic being on the outside or surface.

Membranes are structured layers of tissue separating cells from the outside world. Much like walls of houses keeping us on the inside and keeping intruders out. Cells being so small, of course, they can only be seen and studied – individually, by the microscope.

But it is well to understand that the human body and the universe work in much the same way. There are communication systems that alert various parts of the body to what is going on in other parts. The brain, of course, is at the controls and the spinal cord and the nerves the communication system interconnecting the whole body.

To look at the structure of the membrane through a microscope, all membranes look alike and resemble a railroad tract with lines on each side and clear space separating them. That’s not the real way they are, although all are made up of proteins and lipids, or fatty tissue. But there are variations in structure as the function of each membrane dictates.

Examples of these variations: Myelin, the name of the nerve insulator membrane is made up of 76% lipid (fat) and 18%
Protein: Mitochondrial tissue (energy cells) is 24% fat and 76% protein; plasma membrane, the membrane of red blood cells has equal amounts of protein and fat.

The difference in the proportion of fats and protein in the above paragraph is in the function of the membrane. Myelin, the nerve insulator has more fat tissue because its primary purpose is to insulate’ or protect the nerves it covers; mitochondrial tissue does not protect or cushion and since it is in the business of energy production, it is composed of more protein. Excess fat would be prohibitory to its function.

Proteins are in the business of transportation. Ions – electrically charged atoms – cannot cross the membrane without them. A second function is in receiving. Some proteins are bound to small molecules and send messages or signal when other molecules are present.

A third function of proteins is of recognition. They must be able to recognize when a foreign substance is invading, or trying to cross the membrane. If the substance is recognizable it is allowed to pass, otherwise it is thrown out, or a battle to get rid of it begins. This type of protein is useful in immune systems. The fourth way proteins works is called the adhesion function. These proteins hold cells together.

An example of how the protein works in the membrane on the inside of the nose. If a foreign substance that the protein cannot recognize as being one of theirs tries to enter the breathing passage, it is thrown out. A sneeze dislodges the intruder. Elsewhere in the body, if the trouble maker does sneak in, the method of trying to oust the invader follows pretty much the same pattern, but riddance is usually more severe than a sneeze. Vomiting and diarrhea two of the most known means.

Sometimes these poisons manage to make it all the way to the circulatory system and to all parts of the body where they can disrupt and cause trouble. And often serious illness results.

The fight to dislodge these unwelcome guests can also cause serious trouble. Allergies develop, tissues become inflamed, and on and on membranes and proteins interact. I believe in many cases, illness is nothing more than the body’s attempt to restore order out of chaos.

What can we do to help our system of membranes and proteins protect us and keep us well. The best thing you can do is to drink an adequate amount of water, eat the right kind of food and get enough rest and hopefully eight hours of sleep. And be happy. This sends good messages to your internal self that all is well. It allows for all involved to get much needed rest.