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Current models for cellular plasma membranes focus on spatial heterogeneity and how this heterogeneity relates to cell function. In particular, putative lipid raft membrane domains have been postulated to exist based in large part on the results that a significant fraction of the membrane is detergent insoluble and that molecules facilitating key membrane processes like signal transduction are often found in the detergent-resistant membrane fraction. Yet, the in vivo existence of lipid rafts remains extremely controversial because, despite being sought for more than a decade, evidence for their presence in intact cell membranes is inconclusive. In this review, a variety of experimental techniques that have been or might be used to look for lipid microdomains in intact cell membranes are described. Experimental results are highlighted and the strengths and limitations of different techniques for microdomain identification and characterization are assessed.

Original publication





Publication Date





309 - 336


Biomarkers, Cell Membrane, Detergents, Fluorescence, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Lipids, Membrane Microdomains, Microscopy, Electron, Signal Transduction