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4.2: Absorptive Lineup & Cell Membranes

Having completed digestion in the small intestine, a number of compounds are ready for uptake into the enterocyte. The figure below shows the macronutrient uptake lineup, or what is ready to be taken up into the enterocyte.

Figure 4.21 The macronutrient uptake lineup

From lipids, we have the lysolecithin (from phospholipid), 2-monoglyceride (from triglycerides), fatty acids, and cholesterol. From protein, there are small peptides (di- and tripeptides) and amino acids. From carbohydrates, only the monosaccharides glucose, galactose, and fructose will be taken up. The other macronutrient, water, has not been discussed so far because it does not undergo digestion.

However, these compounds must now cross the plasma (cell) membrane, which is a phospholipid bilayer. In the cell membrane, the hydrophilic heads of the phospholipids point into the lumen as well as towards the interior of the cell, while the tails are on the interior of the plasma membrane as shown below.

Figure 4.22 Plasma membrane of a cell

The plasma membrane contains proteins, cholesterol, and carbohydrates in addition to the phospholipids. Membrane proteins, such as channels and pumps, are important for the transport of some compounds across the cell membrane. The figure and two videos below do a nice job of illustrating the components of the cell membrane.

Figure 4.23 Cell membrane1