Plant Plasma Membrane


The plasma membrane encloses the contents of a cell and acts as a barrier between other cells and its environment. The plasma membrane consists of different classes of lipids and proteins of which the local concentration can change drastically at different parts of the cell. The membrane allows for a controlled exchange between ions and organic compounds throughout the rest of the organism and its surroundings. It forms a crucial signalling hub for growth and developmental responses and for tolerance to biotic (fungi, bacteria, viruses) and abiotic (e.g. salinity, drought, cold, heat) stresses. The plasma membrane also acts as an anchor point for the cytoskeleton and is the starting point from which the cell wall is synthesised. Key differences and similarities between plant and animal plasma membranes are discussed.

Key Concepts

  • Lipid bilayers provide the fundamental architecture of biological membranes.
  • The plasma membrane forms a key barrier between cells and their environment.
  • The plasma membrane is an important source to produce lipid second messengers.
  • Receptors facilitate extracellular and intracellular communication.
  • Endocytosis and exocytosis play key roles in plant growth and development and in stress tolerance.
  • The plasma membrane is impermeable to most molecules, especially for charged or large polar molecules.
  • Transporters are essential proteins facilitating transport of molecules across the plasma membrane.
  • The charge difference across the plasma membrane drives most of this transport.
  • The plasma membrane plays a central role in cellular communication.

Keywords: lipid composition; transport; receptors; signal transduction; cytoskeleton; endocytosis; exocytosis

Figure 1. An overview of transport systems in the plant plasma membrane. All transport is strictly regulated. This is indicated for the H+ and Ca2+ pumps, which are regulated by binding and release of 14‐3‐3 protein and calmodulin (CaM), respectively, and for the water channel activity that is regulated by phosphorylation (indicated by a P). Δ , electrical gradient (membrane potential).
Figure 2. Receptors in the plasma membrane perceive environmental and endogenous signals. Left: The cytokinin (a hormone) two‐component receptor. Right: Four examples of receptor‐like protein kinases (RLKs) with differing extracellular domains. The signal (a ligand, e.g. a fungal protein) binds to the extracellular domain of the receptor, which induces receptor dimerisation or oligomerisation that brings the intracellular kinase domains together and allows them to phosphorylate (indicated by a P) and activate one another. This phosphorylation initiates downstream intracellular signal transduction, eventually resulting in intracellular responses, such as the biosynthesis and excretion of enzymes that degrade fungal cell walls (in pathogen defence reactions).

Further Reading

Antolín‐Llovera M, Petutsching EK, Ried MK, et al. (2014) Knowing your friends and foes‐‐plant receptor‐like kinases as initiators of symbiosis or defence. New Phytologist 4: 791–802.

Armengot L, Marquès‐Bueno MM and Jaillais Y (2016) Regulation of polar auxin transport by protein and lipid kinases. Journal of Experimental Botany 67: 4015–4037.

Baral A, Shruthi KS and Mathew MK (2015) Vesicular trafficking and salinity responses in plants. IUBMB Life 67: 677–686.

Bashir K, Rasheed S, Kobayashi T, Seki M and Nishizawa NK (2016) Regulating subcellular metal homeostasis: the key to crop improvement. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 1192.

Benito B, Haro R, Amtmann A, Cuin TA and Dreyer I (2014) The twins K+ and Na+ in plants. Journal of Plant Physiology 171: 723–731.

Borghi L, Kang J, Ko D, Lee Y and Martinoia E (2015) The role of ABCG‐type ABC transporters in phytohormone transport. Biochemical Society Transactions 43: 924–930.

Brandizzi F and Wasteneys GO (2013) Cytoskeleton‐dependent endomembrane organization in plant cells: an emerging role for microtubules. The Plant Journal 75: 339–349.

Cacas JL, Furt F, Le Guédard M, et al. (2012) Lipids of plant membrane rafts. Progress in Lipid Research 51: 272–299.

Chao DY, Gable K, Chen M, et al. (2011) Sphingolipids in the root play an important role in regulating the leaf ionome in Arabidopsis thaliana. The Plant Cell 23: 1061–1081.

Chen X, Irani NG and Friml J (2011) Clathrin‐mediated endocytosis: The gateway into plant cells. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 14: 674–682.

Fan L, Li R, Pan J, Ding Z and Lin J (2015) Endocytosis and its regulation in plants. Trends in Plant Science 20: 388–397.

Gu F and Nielsen E (2013) Targeting and regulation of cell wall synthesis during tip growth in plants. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 55: 835–846.

Hamann T (2015) The plant cell wall integrity maintenance mechanism‐‐a case study of a cell wall plasma membrane signaling network. Phytochemistry 112: 100–109.

He K and Wu Y (2016) Receptor‐like kinases and regulation of plant innate immunity. Enzymes 40: 105–142.

Hedrich R (2012) Ion channels in plants. Physiological Reviews 92: 1777–7811.

Heilmann I (2016a) Phosphoinositide signaling in plant development. Development 143: 2044–2055.

Heilmann I (2016b) Phosphoinositide signaling in plant development. Development 143: 2044–2055.

Höfte H (2015) The yin and yang of cell wall integrity control: brassinosteroid and FERONIA signaling. Plant & Cell Physiology 56: 224–231.

Hong Y, Zhao J, Guo L, et al. (2016) Plant phospholipases D and C and their diverse functions in stress responses. Progress in Lipid Research 62: 55–74.

Honkanen S and Dolan L (2016) Growth regulation in tip‐growing cells that develop on the epidermis. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 34: 77–83.

Hwang I, Sheen J and Müller B (2012) Cytokinin signaling networks. Annual Review of Plant Biology 63: 353–380.

Ivakov A and Persson S (2013) Plant cell shape: modulators and measurements. Frontiers in Plant Science 4: 439.

Karnik R, Waghmare S, Zhang B, et al. (2016) Commandeering channel voltage sensors for secretion, cell turgor, and volume control. Trends Plant Science pii: S1360‐1385 (16): 30165‐0. DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2016.10.006.

Ketelaar T (2013) The actin cytoskeleton in root hairs: all is fine at the tip. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 16: 749–756.

Kim SJ and Brandizzi F (2016) The plant secretory pathway for the trafficking of cell wall polysaccharides and glycoproteins. Glycobiology 26: 940–949.

Komatsu S (2008) Plasma membrane proteome in Arabidopsis and rice. Proteomics 8: 4137–4145.

Kraft ML (2013) Plasma membrane organization and function: moving past lipid rafts. Molecular Biology of the Cell 24: 2765–2768.

Larrieu A and Vernoux T (2015) Comparison of plant hormone signalling systems. Essays in Biochemistry 58: 165–181.

Larsson C, Sommarin M, Pical C, Kjellbom P and Widell S (2007) Plant plasma membrane. eLS. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001672.pub2.

Lefèvre F, Baijot A and Boutry M (2015) Plant ABC transporters: time for biochemistry? Biochemical Society Transactions 43: 931–936.

Liu Z, Persson S and Zhang Y (2015a) The connection of cytoskeletal network with plasma membrane and the cell wall. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 57: 330–340.

Liu Z, Persson S and Sánchez‐Rodríguez C (2015b) At the border: the plasma membrane–cell wall continuum. Journal of Experimental Botany 66: 1553–1563.

Li‐Beisson Y, Shorrosh B, Beisson F, Andersson MX, et al. (2010) Acyl‐lipid metabolism. The Arabidopsis Book 8: e0133.

Markham JE, Lynch DV, Napier JA, Dunn TM and Cahoon EB (2013) Plant sphingolipids: function follows form. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 16: 350–357.

McFarlane HE, Döring A and Persson S (2014) The cell biology of cellulose synthesis. Annual Review of Plant Biology 65: 69–94.

McNamara JT, Morgan JL and Zimmer J (2015) A molecular description of cellulose biosynthesis. Annual Review of Biochemistry 84: 895–921.

Miyawaki KN and Yang Z (2014) Extracellular signals and receptor‐like kinases regulating ROP GTPases in plants. Frontiers in Plant Science 5: 449.

Morales‐Cedillo F, González‐Solís A, Gutiérrez‐Angoa L, Cano‐Ramírez DL and Gavilanes‐Ruiz M (2015) Plant lipid environment and membrane enzymes: the case of the plasma membrane H+‐ATPase. Plant Cell Reports 34: 617–629.

Munnik T and Vermeer JEM (2010) Osmotic stress‐induced phosphoinositide and inositolphosphate signalling in plants. Plant, Cell & Environment 33: 655–669.

Munnik T and Nielsen E (2011) Green light for polyphosphoinositide signals in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 14: 489–497.

Nakamura M (2015) Microtubule nucleating and severing enzymes for modifying microtubule array organization and cell morphogenesis in response to environmental cues. New Phytologist 205: 1022–1027.

Nieves‐Cordones M, Al Shiblawi FR and Sentenac H (2016) Roles and transport of sodium and potassium in plants. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 16: 291–324.

Nühse TS (2012) Cell wall integrity signaling and innate immunity in plants. Frontiers in Plant Science 3: 280.

Offringa R and Huang F (2013) Phosphorylation‐dependent trafficking of plasma membrane proteins in animal and plant cells. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 55: 789–808.

Osakabe Y, Yamaguchi‐Shinozaki K, Shinozaki K and Tran LS (2013) Sensing the environment: key roles of membrane‐localized kinases in plant perception and response to abiotic stress. Journal of Experimental Botany 64: 445–458.

Paez Valencia J, Goodman K and Otegui MS (2016) Endocytosis and endosomal trafficking in plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 67: 309–335.

Pauly M and Keegstra K (2016) Biosynthesis of the plant cell wall matrix polysaccharide xyloglucan. Annual Review of Plant Biology 67: 235–259.

Pereira AM, Pereira LG and Coimbra S (2015) Arabinogalactan proteins: rising attention from plant biologists. Plant Reproduction 28: 1–15.

Rounds CM and Bezanilla M (2013) Growth mechanisms in tip‐growing plant cells. Annual Review of Plant Biology 64: 243–265.

Salehin M, Bagchi R and Estelle M (2015) SCFTIR1/AFB‐based auxin perception: mechanism and role in plant growth and development. The Plant Cell 27: 9–19.

Schaller GE, Shiu SH and Armitage JP (2011) Two‐component systems and their co‐option for eukaryotic signal transduction. Current Biology 21: R320–R330.

Sekereš J, Pleskot R, Pejchar P, Žárský V and Potocký M (2015) The song of lipids and proteins: Dynamic lipid‐protein interfaces in the regulation of plant cell polarity at different scales. Journal of Experimental Botany 66: 1587–1598.

Sharma T, Dreyer I and Riedelsberger J (2013) The role of K+ channels in uptake and redistribution of potassium in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Frontiers in Plant Science 4: 224.

Shaw SL (2012) The cell wall is a real drag. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 12274–12275.

Showalter AM and Basu D (2016) Extensin and arabinogalactan‐protein biosynthesis: glycosyltransferases, research challenges, and biosensors. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 814.

Spalding EP and Harper JF (2011) The ins and outs of cellular Ca2+ transport. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 14: 715–720.

Takahashi D, Li B, Nakayama T, Kawamura Y and Uemura M (2013) Plant plasma membrane proteomics for improving cold. Frontiers in Plant Science 4: 90.

Tapken W and Murphy AS (2015) Membrane nanodomains in plants: capturing form, function, and movement. Journal of Experimental Botany 66: 1573–1586.

Trusov Y and Botella JR (2016) Plant G‐proteins come of age: breaking the bond with animal models. Frontiers in Chemistry 4: 24.

Testerink C and Munnik T (2011) Molecular, cellular and physiological responses to phosphatidic acid formation in plants. Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 2349–2361.

Urano D and Jones AM (2014) Heterotrimeric G protein–coupled signaling in plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 65: 365–384.

Urano D, Miura K, Wu Q, et al. (2016) Plant morphology of heterotrimeric g protein mutants. Plant & Cell Physiology 57: 437–445.

Voxeur A and Höfte H (2016) Cell wall integrity signaling in plants: “To grow or not to grow that's the question”. Glycobiology 26: 950–960.

Wang Y and Wu WH (2013) Potassium transport and signaling in higher plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 64: 451–476.

Wang P and Hussey PJ (2015) Interactions between plant endomembrane systems and the actin cytoskeleton. Frontiers in Plant Science 6: 422.

Ward JM, Mäser P and Schroeder JL (2009) Plant ion channels: gene families, physiology, and functional genomics analyses. Annual Review of Physiology 71: 59–82.

Wolf S, Hématy K and Höfte H (2012) Growth control and cell wall signaling in plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 63: 381–407.

Zhang T, Zheng Y and Cosgrove DJ (2016) Spatial organization of cellulose microfibrils and matrix polysaccharides in primary plant cell walls as imaged by multichannel atomic force microscopy. The Plant Journal 85: 179–192.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
van Hooren, Max, and Munnik, Teun(May 2017) Plant Plasma Membrane. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001672.pub3]