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Although liquid-liquid phase separation of cytoplasmic or nuclear components in cells has been a major focus in cell biology, it is only recently that the principle of phase separation has been a long-standing concept and extensively studied in biomembranes. Membrane phase separation has been reconstituted in simplified model systems, and its detailed physicochemical principles, including essential phase diagrams, have been extensively explored. These model membrane systems have proven very useful to study the heterogeneity in cellular membranes, however, concerns have been raised about how reliably they can represent native membranes. In this review, we will discuss how phase-separated membrane systems can mimic cellular membranes and where they fail to reflect the native cell membrane heterogeneity. We also include a few humble suggestions on which phase-separated systems should be used for certain applications, and which interpretations should be avoided to prevent unreliable conclusions.

Original publication




Journal article


Membranes (Basel)

Publication Date





GPMVs, GUVs, SLBs, lipid rafts, liquid-disordered domains, liquid-ordered domains, phase separation, plasma membrane, plasma membrane vesicles