Do Cell Membranes Flow Like Honey or Jiggle Like Jello?

Adam E. Cohen, Zheng Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Cell membranes experience frequent stretching and poking: from cytoskeletal elements, from osmotic imbalances, from fusion and budding of vesicles, and from forces from the outside. Are the ensuing changes in membrane tension localized near the site of perturbation, or do these changes propagate rapidly through the membrane to distant parts of the cell, perhaps as a mechanical mechanism of long-range signaling? Literature statements on the timescale for membrane tension to equilibrate across a cell vary by a factor of ≈106. This study reviews and discusses how apparently contradictory findings on tension propagation in cells can be evaluated in the context of 2D hydrodynamics and poroelasticity. Localization of tension in the cell membrane is likely critical in governing how membrane forces gate ion channels, set the subcellular distribution of vesicle fusion, and regulate the dynamics of cytoskeletal growth. Furthermore, in this study, it is proposed that cells can actively regulate the degree to which membrane tension propagates by modulating the density and arrangement of immobile transmembrane proteins. Also see the video abstract here

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1900142
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


  • cell mechanics
  • cell membrane
  • diffusion
  • lipid flow
  • membrane tension

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