Membrane reservoirs serve as membrane buffers that help redistribute membrane area when cells need to stretch or change shape and size. They are found at the cell surface as membrane superstructures varying in size from large membrane folds, to tiny membrane invaginations and caveolae (reviewed in ).
Cells are often subject to frequent morphological changes throughout life. For example, cellular processes like phagocytosis and migration require protrusion-driven movement and cell shape changes. At the tissue and organ level, critical biological processes such as respiration and the cardiac cycle rely on the continuous, coordinated expansion and contraction of cells.
In order to accommodate these varied changes in cell morphology, the cell membrane that contains the cell must alter morphology as well. However, cell membranes are highly inelastic. Studies have shown that the maximum elastic stretching of a membrane is only 4%, even when the cell is subjected to lytic tensions which are 100 to 1000 fold greater than normal . Therefore, increases or decreases in membrane area during cell shape or volume changes must be modulated by mechanisms other than simple elastic stretching.
One such mechanism is recycling of membrane through various endocytic and exocytic membrane trafficking pathways  . However, this cannot solely account for larger membrane requirements in spreading cells  or the rapid and constitutive membrane remodeling needed due to continual shear stress experienced by epithelial cells during breathing. Recent research has revealed that larger and rapid membrane area requirements may be met by reservoirs of membrane that store and release large fractions of the membrane , .
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