Question 56 - Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Practice Test for the MCAT

Which temperature in the attached chart most closely represents human body temperature and therefore would represent the speed at which oxygen molecules would move through the membranes?

Cells are bounded by membranes composed of phospholipids. A phospholipid consists of a pair of fatty acids that may or may not have carbon-carbon double bonds, fused at the carboxylic acid with a three-carbon glycerol that is terminated by a phosphate, as shown in the figure below. Most cell membranes comprise two phospholipid layers with the hydrophilic phosphate ends of each molecule in the outer and inner surfaces. The hydrophobic chains of carbon atoms extend into the space between these two surfaces. The exchange of matter between the interior of the cell and the environment is mediated by this membrane with selective permeability.

Because the plasma cell membrane has both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties, few types of molecules possess structures that allow them to pass between the interior of the cell and the environment through passive diffusion. The fluidity of the membrane affects passive transport, and the incorporation of other molecules in the membrane, in particular cholesterols, has a strong effect on its fluidity. Fluidity is also affected by temperature. Measurements of the speed of movement of oxygen molecules, O2, through three types of membranes were made (Widomska et al., Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1,768, 2007) and compared with the speed of movement of O2 through water. These measurements were carried out at four different temperatures. One type of membrane was obtained from the cells in the eyeball of a calf (lens lipid). Synthetic membranes composed of palmitic acid with cholesterol (POPC/CHOL) and without cholesterol (POPC) were also used. The results from these experiments are shown in the table below.

  Temperature ( ° C )
  15 25 35 45
Material Speed (cm/s)
Lens lipids 15 30 65 110
POP/CHOL 15 30 60 95
POPC 55 100 155 280
Water 45 55 65 75

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