The paucimolecular unit membrane model of the structure of the plasma membrane is critically reviewed in relation to current knowledge of the chemical and enzymatic composition of isolated plasma membranes, the properties of phospholipids, the chemistry of fixation for electron microscopy, the conformation of membrane proteins, the nature of the lipid-protein bonds in membranes, and possible mechanisms of transmembrane transport and membrane biosynthesis. It is concluded that the classical models, although not disproven, are not well supported by, and are difficult to reconcile with, the data now available. On the other hand, although a model based on lipoprotein subunits is, from a biochemical perspective, an attractive alternative, it too is far from proven. Many of the questions may be resolved by studies of membrane function and membrane biosynthesis rather than by a direct attack on membrane structure.

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