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Membrane microdomains such as lipid rafts and caveolae regulate a myriad of cellular functions including cell signalling, protein trafficking, cell viability, and cell movement. They have been implicated in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, highlighting the essential role they play in cell processes. Despite much research and debate on the size, composition and dynamics of membrane microdomains, the molecular mechanism(s) of their action remain poorly understood. Most studies have dealt solely with the content and properties of the membrane microdomain as an entity in itself. However, recent work shows that membrane microdomain disruption has wide ranging effects on other subcellular compartments, and the cell as a whole. Hence we propose that a systems approach incorporating many cellular attributes such as subcellular localisation is required in order to understand the global impact of microdomains on cell function. Although analysis of sub-proteome changes already provides additional insight, we further propose biological network analysis of functional proteomics data to capture effects at the systems level. In this review, we highlight the use of protein-protein interactions networks and mixed networks to portray and visualize the relationships between proteins within and between subcellular fractions. Such a systems analysis will be required to improve our understanding of the full cellular function of membrane microdomains.


Kerry L Inder, Melissa Davis, Michelle M Hill. Ripples in the pond--using a systems approach to decipher the cellular functions of membrane microdomains. Molecular bioSystems. 2013 Mar;9(3):330-8

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PMID: 23322173

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