Difference Between Cell Membrane and Plasma Membrane

Every organism is made of the smallest single unit called a cell. It makes up tissues, then tissue systems, organs, and so on an individual.


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It comprises many components inside it which make up an entire cell they are – Mitochondria, Golgi Apparatus, Cell Membrane, Cell Wall (only in plants), Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER), Nucleus, etc. These cell organelles have different functions and serve different purposes.

Key Takeaways

  1. The cell membrane is the outermost layer that encloses the cell, while the plasma membrane is the outer layer that encloses the cytoplasm.
  2. The cell membrane is made up of lipids and proteins, while the plasma membrane is made up of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates.
  3. The cell membrane maintains the cell’s shape, while the plasma membrane regulates the movement of substances in and out of the cell.

Cell Membrane vs Plasma Membrane

The cell membrane is a term that refers to the membrane that surrounds all types of cells, including prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The plasma membrane is a term that refers specifically to the cell membrane of animal cells, which is made up of a phospholipid bilayer and various proteins.

Cell Membrane vs Plasma Membrane

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The cell Membrane is the outermost covering present in a cell. It has some projections called cilia, which help in the Movement and transporting of food. It also helps in protecting the cell and its components from foreign invaders. 

Plasma Membrane is the outermost covering of any cell sometimes or a cell organelle. It helps in protecting the cell organelles from bursting.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCell MembranePlasma Membrane
LocationThe cell Membrane is said to cover all the cell contents inside it.It constitutes the particular cell organelles or a cell.
Feeding and MovementFor movement and feeding, it has cilia.It is absent in them.
TonicityIt helps in controlling itIt does not usually help that.
Protection from InvadersIt protects from invaders.It does not protect from the invaders.
Cytokinesis It plays a part in cytokinesis.Not always takes part in cell division.
Signal TransductionThe first step and receiver in the processNot the first step always.
Antimicrobial TargetsAlwaysNot Always

What is a Cell Membrane?

The outermost covering of the cell (except in Plant Cells, as they have additional coverage of rigid Cell Walls) is known as Cell Membrane.

While we look at the composition of the cell membrane, there are many theories and models on the structure of the Cell Membrane, but Singer and Nicolson give the best-fitted and accepted model of the Cell Membrane. 

Their model is named the Fluid Mosaic Model, which states that the Cell Membrane is made up of a bilayer of phospholipids and proteins, along with glycoproteins and glycolipids. 

Some of the functions of the Cell Membrane are discussed below –

  • It helps in the regulation of substances in or out of the cell.
  • Protects cell from foreign invaders and pathogens.
  • It plays an essential role in the signal functioning of the cell.
  • It acts as a selective barrier and lets permeable things pass in and out.  
cell membrane

What is Plasma Membrane?

Plasma Membrane constitutes the outer covering of the cell organelles. Plasma Membrane is a very thin layer. It is usually 5-10nm in size. Plasma Membrane is quite evident through a microscope.

The composition of plasma membrane is that it is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids and is said to be a living and metabolically active layer. Plasma Membrane remains the same throughout its life. No changes are observed in thickness or composition.

The additional projections called cilia are absent in the plasma membrane, so it usually does not participate in the cytokinesis. Some of the functions of the Plasma Membrane are given below –

  • It acts as a barrier between the cell components and the cell organelle.
  • Only selective molecules are allowed to pass through it.
plasma membrane

Main Differences Between Cell Membrane and Plasma Membrane

  1. The Cell Membrane helps maintain a cell’s tonicity, while the Plasma Membrane does not usually participate.
  2. The cell Membrane helps guard the cell against foreign invaders, while it is the opposite for the Plasma Membrane as it does not function that way.
  3. Cell Membrane uses its projections called cilia which help the cell in Movement, while Plasma Membrane does not have any cilia on them.
  4. Cell Membrane is divided by the process called cytokinesis, which is an essential step in cell division and takes part in it. At the same time, Plasma Membrane does not always participate in cytokinesis.
  5. Cell Membrane is said to be the first receiver of the transduction signal and the first participant, whereas Plasma Membrane is not the first receiver and does not always participate. 
  6. Cell Membrane is easily targeted place by antimicrobial agents, while Plasma Membrane is not usually easily targeted by antimicrobial agents. 
Difference Between Cell Membrane and Plasma Membrane


  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac301776j
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6268438/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006349593815315
  4. https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/200/23/2927/7650/Cell-membrane-lipid-composition-and-distribution
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