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In biology, the thin layer that forms the outer boundary of a living cell or of an internal cell compartment. The outer boundary is the plasma membrane, and the compartments enclosed by internal membranes are called organelles. Biological membranes have a dual function: separation of vital but incompatible metabolic processes conducted in the organelles; and passage of nutrients, wastes, and metabolic products between organelles and between the cell and the outside environment. Membranes consist largely of a double layer of lipids in which are embedded large proteins, many of which transport ions and water-soluble molecules across the membrane. See alsocytoplasm, eukaryote.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on membrane, visit Britannica.com.