Protein-membrane interactions: The virtue of minimal systems in systems biology

Senthil Arumugam, Grzegorz Chwastek, Petra Schwille

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The plasma membrane of cells can be viewed as a highly dynamic, regulated, heterogeneous environment with multiple functions. It constitutes the boundary of the cell, encapsulating all its components. Proteins interact with the membrane in many ways to accommodate essential processes, such as membrane trafficking, membrane protrusions, cytokinesis, signaling, and cell-cell communication. A vast amount of literature has already fostered our current understanding of membrane-protein interactions. However, many phenomena still remain to be understood, e.g., the exact mechanisms of how certain proteins cause or assist membrane transformations. Systems biology aims to predict biological processes on the basis of the set of molecules involved. Many key processes arise from interactions with the lipid membrane. Protein interactome maps do not consider such specific interactions, and thus cannot predict precise outcomes of the interactions of the involved proteins. These can only be inferred from experimental approaches. We describe examples of how an emergent behavior of protein-membrane interactions has been demonstrated by the use of minimal systems. These studies contribute to a deeper understanding of protein interactomes involving membranes and complement other approaches of systems biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalWIREs Systems Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes

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