Abstract. We investigated melting transitions in native biological membranes containing their membrane proteins. The membranes originated from E. coli, B. subtilis, lung surfactant and nerve tissue from the spinal cord of several mammals. For some preparations, we studied the pressure, pH and ionic strength dependence of the transition. For porcine spine, we compared the transition of the native membrane to that of the extracted lipids. All preparations displayed melting transitions of 10-20 degrees below physiological or growth temperature, independent of the organism of origin and the respective cell type. We found that the position of the transitions in E. coli membranes depends on the growth temperature. We discuss these findings in the context of the thermodynamic theory of membrane fluctuations close to transition that predicts largely altered elastic constants, an increase in fluctuation lifetime and in membrane permeability. We also discuss how to distinguish lipid melting from protein unfolding transitions. Since the feature of a transition slightly below physiological temperature is conserved even when growth conditions change, we conclude that the transitions are likely to be of major biological importance for the survival and the function of the cell.