A discussion of our specialized cell receptors begins with the cell membrane.
Although the Cell Theory was first formulated around 1839, the existence of the plasma membrane was not broadly accepted until later in the 20th century. The “fluid mosaic model” of the membrane developed in the 1970s offers an understanding of its sophisticated and complex mechanics.
This model refers to a membrane that is a mosaic of phospholipids, cholesterol and proteins. This intelligent and protective lipid bilayer is also fluid, regulating the movement of molecules including nutrients, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide and much more, into and out of the cell.
This movement is accomplished in part by transmembrane proteins such as channels and receptors. Our specialized receptors bind with hormones or immune mediators that in turn signal molecules inside the cell. This communication changes activities within the cells.
There are hundreds of types of receptors, responding to these chemical molecules, pressure and light. Often compared to a key and a lock, the signalling molecules and specialized cell receptors are involved in the actions of certain medications. Receptors are also involved in certain autoimmune and allergic conditions. For example, IgE bound to receptors on mast cells will trigger their degranulation and the release of histamine. This signalling pathway leads to inflammation associated with an allergic response.
In another example, American molecular biologist Candace Pert (1946-2013) explained that neuropeptides produced in the brain and their cell receptors throughout the body are activated by thoughts and emotions. In a 1985 article “The Wisdom of the Receptors: Neuropeptides, the Emotions and Bodymind,” Pert explains that these chemicals such as insulin are stored in the cell vesicles “waiting for the right electro-physical events that will release it.”