Transmembrane proteins were generally cell receptors
Cells have proteins called receptors that bind to signaling molecules and initiate a physiological response. Different receptors are specific for different molecules. Dopamine receptors bind dopamine, insulin receptors bind insulin, nerve growth factor receptors bind nerve growth factor, and so on. In fact, there are hundreds of receptor types found in cells, and varying cell types have different populations of receptors. Receptors can also respond directly to light or pressure, which makes cells sensitive to events in the atmosphere.
Receptors are generally transmembrane proteins, which bind to signaling molecules outside the cell and subsequently transmit the signal through a sequence of molecular switches to internal signaling pathways. Membrane receptors fall into three major classes: G-protein-coupled receptors, ion channel receptors, and enzyme-linked receptors. The names of these receptor classes refer to the mechanism by which the receptors transform external signals into internal ones — via protein action, ion channel opening, or enzyme activation, respectively. Because membrane receptors interact with both extracellular signals and molecules within the cell, they permit signaling molecules to affect cell function without actually entering the cell. This is important because most signaling molecules are either too big or too charged to cross a cell's plasma membrane.
Not all receptors exist on the exterior of the cell. Some exist deep inside the cell, or even in the nucleus. These receptors typically bind to molecules that can pass through the plasma membrane, such as gases like nitrous oxide and steroid hormones like estrogen.
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