Lyotropic liquid-crystalline phases are abundant in living systems, the study of which is referred to as lipid polymorphism. Accordingly, lyotropic liquid crystals attract particular attention in the field of biomimetic chemistry. In particular, biological membranes and cell membranes are a form of liquid crystal. Their constituent molecules (e.g. phospholipids) are perpendicular to the membrane surface, yet the membrane is flexible. These lipids vary in shape (see page on lipid polymorphism). The constituent molecules can inter-mingle easily, but tend not to leave the membrane due to the high energy requirement of this process. Lipid molecules can flip from one side of the membrane to the other, this process being catalyzed by flippases and floppases (depending on the direction of movement). These liquid crystal membrane phases can also host important proteins such as receptors freely “floating” inside, or partly outside, the membrane, e.g. CCT.
Many other biological structures exhibit liquid-crystal behavior. For instance, the concentrated protein solution that is extruded by a spider to generate silk is, in fact, a liquid crystal phase. The precise ordering of molecules in silk is critical to its renowned strength. DNA and many polypeptides can also form LC phases and this too forms an important part of current academic research.