The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 193–208

The movement of molecules across lipid membranes: A molecular theory

  • H. Träuble

DOI: 10.1007/BF02431971

Cite this article as:
Träuble, H. J. Membrain Biol. (1971) 4: 193. doi:10.1007/BF02431971


The movement of molecules across membranes is discussed in terms of thermal fluctuations in the hydrocarbon chains of the membrane lipids. The thermal motion of the hydrocarbon chains results in the formation of conformational isomers, so-called kink-isomers of the hydrocarbon chains. “Kinks” may be pictured as mobile structural defects which represent small, mobile free volumes in the hydrocarbon phase of the membrane. The diffusion coefficient of kinks is calculated to be 10−5 cm2/sec; thus kinks diffusion is a fast process. Small molecules can enter into the free volumes of kinks and migrate across the membrane together with the kinks; thus kinks may be regarded as intrinsic carriers of lipid membranes. An expression is derived from this model for the flow of molecules through lipid membranes. The calculated value for the water permeability is compatible with measurements on lipid bilayers.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Träuble
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für Physikalische ChemieGöttingenGermany