The ability of membrane lipids to adopt nonbilayer configurations suggests dynamic roles for lipids in many functional abilities of biological membranes. In this work evidence supporting the involvement of lipids in three types of membrane transport process is presented and discussed. These transport processes include facilitated transbilayer transport of polar molecules, transport mechanisms involving fusion events, and transport possibilities arising from alternative membrane morphology. In particular it is shown that lipids such as cardiolipin, which adopt the hexagonal HII phase in the presence of Ca2+, may be logically proposed to facilitate Ca2+ transport across membranes via an inverted micellar intermediate. Alternatively, in transport processes such as exocytosis the ability of Ca2+ to generate membrane instabilities favouring nonbilayer alternatives suggests a crucial role of phospholipid in the fusion event vital to exocytotic release. Finally, nonbilayer lipid structures may be suggested to favour formation of isolated compartments connected by a continuous membrane where lateral diffusion processes can lead to transport. These various possibilities are summarized in a "metamorphic mosaic" model of biological membranes.
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